RMOW puts out call for village volunteers 

ihost concept modelled after Whistler-Blackcomb’s Mountain Host program

Guests in the resort will get a helping hand around town this summer when Whistler’s new information hosts hit the village streets.

The municipality’s ihost program will kick off on July 2 with a fleet of trained volunteers who will guide and help guests find their ways around town throughout the summer months.

"I think people who are just really keen on Whistler (will) want to participate," said Paul Shakotko, manager of transportation for the municipality who has been developing the program.

Volunteers will don easy to spot uniforms and roam around town armed with information about the village.

It’s a pilot program roughly modelled on Whistler-Blackcomb’s Mountain Host program, where volunteers take tours around the mountains in exchange for a season’s pass.

Unlike the Mountain Host program however, ihost volunteers will not conduct scheduled tours of the village.

Some ihosts will be stationed at the Gateway Loop during primetime when the buses unload fresh guests. They will greet people immediately and direct them to where they need to go.

Shakotko said the ihost program will appeal to locals of all ages and backgrounds.

"I think in running these programs in the past we’ve found that people do this... because they really care and they love everything about Whistler and they want to tell people about it."

The program evolved from a 2003 study called the Whistler Welcome Strategy, which was commissioned by One Whistler – a group made up of key organizations in town like the municipality, Tourism Whistler and the Chamber of Commerce.

The study examined the guest experience from the moment people decide to come to Whistler, throughout their stay here to their return home.

"That strategy pointed out a whole bunch of areas that we’re doing really well at but there are some areas that we need to improve," said Shakotko.

"(It) identified that a lot of our guests feel that they’re disoriented in town and don’t have access to quick information."

The strategy also called for an Information Centre on the highway in the south end of Whistler, as well as colour-coded mapping in the resort.

Ultimately the goal is to create a seamless experience for the guests.

Ihost Co-ordinator Cathie Coyle said she is hoping to attract 50 volunteers to the program.

They will be asked to volunteer in four-hour shifts throughout the summer until early October. The shifts will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and a second shift will run from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

A revised program will be designed for the winter season.

Though the ihost program is a municipal initiative it will operate out of the 2010 Olympic Information Centre in the heart of the village.

Shakotko said the ihost program is a good way to get volunteer experience under your belt, particularly in light of the critical role volunteers will play in the lead up to and during the Olympic Games.

"It certainly adds to your resume, builds up your experience and your knowledge of Whistler," he said.

For a volunteer application or for more information contact Cathie Coyle at ihost@whistler.ca or call 604-935-8478.

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