May long weekend problems spark forum 

Letter of complaint prompts hoteliers to take action

When Kimberley Hughes, general manager of the Delta Suites, got a letter from one of her guests complaining about hooligans in Whistler Village it was the last straw.

Hughes decided it was time to take action, so she is organizing a community forum at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler June 16 at 2 p.m. in the hopes that the community can work together to find solutions to combat rowdyism on the May long weekend and other troublesome times.

"…I think as a community we need to get together and say these trouble makers are not welcome and we are not going to stand by and let this behaviour go unnoticed," Hughes said earlier this week.

In the letter the guest described how he and his family witnessed young girls being harangued by people hanging off balconies, youths walking eight across in the village so that people had to move out of the way, young people aimlessly trying the doors of cars in the marketplace parking lot, and the continuous and loud use of profanity.

"(The guest) was just disgusted by his experience in Whistler and felt that as an operator that I would want to know and something had to be done," said Hughes, who also appeared on Vancouver radio station CKNW on the issue.

"Whistler has something for everyone and Whistler is absolutely open to young people who want to enjoy the adventure and night life of Whistler, but this was something different. This was a group of people who were really having no regard for the rights of other people or respecting other people."

Hughes sent a copy of the letter out to 10 or so colleagues and was surprised to hear back that all reported similar experiences. What’s more, all felt that something had to be done.

Hughes understands that the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the RCMP, Tourism Whistler and other stakeholders have been working on the issue for years. Her hope is that the forum will find a way to support the work already in place and unite the community.

In years past some of the blame has been laid at the feet of hotels and other accommodation providers for offering such cheap rooms. This year, said Hughes, the Delta’s rooms were more expensive than any other day in May. That didn’t deter youths from booking in, but this year the hotel refunded money to guests who were underage at book-in time or who were filling the rooms past capacity.

"What we are trying to do, the hoteliers and myself, is crack down on guests that are impacting other guests," said Hughes.

"We have a no-tolerance policy on it and we are educating our staff about how to deal with it."

Communication is key to dealing with the issue said Whistler Councillor Gordon McKeever. And part of that is the communication that goes on when people check into places with an unstaffed front desk.

"The lack of a front desk presence in many properties is a serious problem and that is something I would really like to stress," he said.

He would like to see better communication strategies amongst stakeholders in the community and even into the Lower Mainland in an effort to get the message out that while everyone is welcome in Whistler those seeking trouble can seek it somewhere else.

"There has been significant improvements but there is still a ways to go," said McKeever, who plans on attending the forum.

The RCMP also plans to be at the forum.

"It is important that the people there understand that enforcement alone won’t solve this and we want to work with them and hopefully we can come up with a solution that everyone can buy into," said Sgt. Marc Lavergne, adding that he plans to outline the operational plan put in place for the weekend, which included up to 22 officers working on Friday and Saturday nights.

Indeed, arrests and calls for service were down again this year.

Part of the problem this May long weekend might have been the three busloads of graduates that arrived from the Lower Mainland.

"We received intelligence from another police agency that they were on their way and we had officers meet the buses and speak with them," said Lavergne.

"These students were all underage drinkers and therefore they were spending three days in the resort with really nothing planned to do other than to party.

"So there was a lot of that contingent in the village walking around and doing what kids do."

Tourism Whistler is on board too.

"We are concerned about anything that could possibly impact the guest experience in a negative way," said Diane Mombourquette, VP of finance and operations for TW.

"We are glad that the community wants to get together and talk about positive solutions and we are happy to participate and move it along in any way we can."

If you would like to attend the forum send your details to Hughes at kihughes@deltahotels.ca.

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