The new flavour of tourism 

Arts and culture the future of Whistler

At the inaugural Whistler Business and the Arts Awards in December 2003, guest speaker Max Wyman indicated that there was enormous opportunity to showcase arts and to develop arts as a meaningful legacy from the Olympic Games in 2010.

Those ideas were echoed at the July 2005 Chamber of Commerce luncheon by Raymond Grant, executive director for programming for the Sundance Festival and the former artistic director of the 2002 Cultural Olympiad. Residents, business owners and 2010 Olympic Organizing Committee members were urged to tell the story of Whistler – "And you will look magnificent in the eyes of the world. And, many eyes will be on you."

Many local artists, business people, and visionaries who would like to see Whistler as a cultural destination have their eyes set on a new direction for Whistler. It’s a potentially lucrative course as well. Estimates are that arts and culture visitors spend $100 a day more than regular tourists. Statistics from the the Canadian Tourism Commission back up the affluent nature of this new market: "Wine and culinary enthusiasts span the income and education spectrums, but are appreciably more affluent than are typical domestic visitors in Canada and have more formal education. The difference between ‘typical’ domestic tourists and wine and culinary enthusiasts within Canada is apparent in their average annual household incomes: $54,900 for the typical domestic leisure visitor and $65,500 for the sub-group with a particular interest in food and wine."

Those stats are only for two million or so Canadian wine and culinary enthusiasts; the potential is enormous when added to the performing arts enthusiast market (1.3 million adults) and visual arts enthusiasts (2.1 million).

Whistler already boasts an impressive lineup of arts and culture festivals, from Cornucopia to the Whistler Film Festival and Art Walk to the Performance series. But if we heed the advice of Messrs. Wyman and Grant this will just be the tip of the iceberg. Anyone with an interest in continuing Whistler’s economic sustainability had better start smelling what proponents of the Whistler arts scene are cooking.

Arts means business

The Council for Business and the Arts in Canada is dedicated to helping arts organizations and businesses reach their full potential by encouraging creative partnerships between the two. According to their November 2004 report titled Snapshot of Arts and Culture in Canada, "Revenues earned by arts and culture organizations are second only to sports and recreation in their degree of self-reliance – earning almost 50% of their revenues through fees." Fees collected account for the largest source of revenues for arts and culture organizations, far outpacing government funding. According to the report, the federal government offers surprisingly little; "Only 0.08% of the 2004-05 total federal budget is allocated to the Canada Council for the Arts which transfers funds to artists and cultural groups. That represents 4.6% of the Canadian Heritage budget." The lion’s share of government spending is contributed by the provinces (13%) with the feds and private sector investment in the arts each contributing 8% to total arts and culture revenue; Municipal governments pitch in a respectable 6%.

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