Province working on B.C. resort guide 

Whistler administrator part of task force spearheading project intended to help double size of tourism industry

As part of its quest to double tourism by 2013 the provincial government is putting together a guide on how to be a successful resort.

The idea is to find out what works and what doesn’t in resorts across the nation, throughout the U.S. and internationally, put it in a booklet, and let emerging and established resorts use it as a guide.

"The intent of the guide is to look at resort community planning, development and operations," said Whistler administrator Jim Godfrey, who is also on the B.C. Resort Task Force which is spearheading the project.

Overall tourism is a $9 billion industry to the province. About $2 billion of that comes from resorts and it is an area which many see as being open to growth.

So working on a best practices guide which would help increase revenue from areas such as Tofino, Fernie, and Rossland makes sense for the government.

"The government has concluded that there is a very large potential for on-going resort development in the province," said Don Leitch deputy minister in the Small Business and Economic Development Ministry.

It’s hoped, he said, that by clarifying issues surrounding resort development the guide will help resorts grow and excel.

Whistler, alone is responsible for $1 billion in annual tourism revenue.

But doubling the revenue from tourism will only be attainable, said Godfrey, with a strong strategic plan and more funding from the government.

"I think it would be extremely difficult to do in today’s environment (to reach the government target)," said Godfrey.

"It would require a well orchestrated plan and additional funding. Competition is intense and it is growing."

The $100,000 project, is being funded by the federal and provincial governments. Some members of the Resort Community Collaborative, an independent group, will also contribute. The project is in the process of hiring a consultant to put the guide together.

It’s likely, said Godfrey, that the guide will look at village design, and transportation to resorts and within resorts. It will also look at design standards, resort product and how you capitalize on the uniqueness of each individual resort, whether it be a summer resort or a winter resort.

Tourist accommodation will also be studied, along with marketing and how best to develop a tourist association that fits with the evolution of the community.

Another important area for resorts to look at will be the whole notion of local partnerships and how resorts go about developing partnerships.

"If you use Whistler as a example you realize that the Whistler product is a seamless experience, so if you have a good experience or a bad experience on the mountains it is still Whistler," said Godfrey. "If you have a good experience or a bad experience in the village it is still Whistler. So it is recognizing that in a resort community there are a number if different players and they all have to be partners in delivering a first class service to a very discerning public."

The guide will also look at community issues such as how to keep it affordable, what facilities are needed to sustain a community, what programs are needed and how to provide sustainable housing for residents.

Environmental practices will be studied too. With tourism having a greater and greater impact on the environment it’s necessary to make sure development is sustainable.

If resorts don’t take care they might come under the same criticism and scrutiny that resource extraction companies have come under in the past.

While many of these issues have already been dealt with in Whistler, Godfrey said there is still room to grow and improve.

"Although we are a mature resort there is always a need to take a look at how we do things and to learn from others and to tweak ourselves so that we are able to perform in a very competitive environment."

But in the end the guide, due out this fall, will be simply a guide, said Godfrey.

"It is not meant to be a cookie cutter approach where everything looks the same," he said.

"You don’t want to take away from the individuality of any particular community. You’ve got to recognize that every community is different and every community has its own assets.

"(The question is) how do you capitalize on those assets from a best practices perspective."

Some may wonder why successful resorts would want to share their wining strategies in this time of intense competition for tourism dollars.

Resorts describe their approach to the issue as "co-opitition" said Godfrey.

"Resort communities, although they compete with each other, they also share a lot with each other and we each learn from each other," he said.

"So if Fernie had a great idea or great practice or Aspen does something really well that is an opportunity for us all to learn and benefit from."

The guide is not the whole answer in keeping up with trends in the tourism market. But as part of a plan to attain provincial goals it is an important step.

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