Tourism officials unsure about economic benefits from PNWER conference 

Figures from Quebec City summit show lots of money involved, Canmore excited about possibilities

Is any exposure good exposure?

That’s the question Tourism Whistler is grappling with.

International trade conferences and their accompanying protests are starting to be seen as a boon for resort business but Whistler is still, perhaps, a little bit gun-shy.

More than 1,000 delegates, police officers, protestors and media personnel descended on Whistler in July for the three-day Pacific North West Economic Region conference.

"Conferences are a very, very important part of business here, especially in the shoulder seasons and summer," said Michele Comeau, Tourism Whistler’s media relations manager.

But Comeau said she wasn’t sure of the economic spin-offs or media exposure generated by the PNWER conference.

"It’s the first time anything like that has happened here," she told Pique Newsmagazine .

"There were a large number of delegates and business (in the village) was good.

"But I’m not sure it was big enough to make an impact."

The PNWER conference attracted 700 delegates from B.C., Alberta and six American states. There were also 150 RCMP constables, the same number of protestors and a handful of media.

Comeau said Tourism Whistler does not keep statistics on each individual conference. It does, however, keep more generalized figures.

According to Comeau, hotels such as the Chateau and Westin are "practically full" during slow periods because of conferences.

"It’s significant," she said, noting the proposed $22-million expansion of the Whistler Conference Centre would help boost conference business.

A recent Laval University study concluded that the Summit of the Americas conference, which was held in Quebec City last April, generated $133-million in economic activity for the region.

Tourism representatives from Canmore, Alta., are expecting similar economic spin-offs during next summer’s G-8 Summit, which is slated to be held in nearby Kananaskis Country.

"We’re expecting that every hotel room is going to be full and the restaurants (will) be extremely busy," said Jennifer Groundwater of Tourism Canmore.

Hotel rooms have already been booked – at the top rate – for next summer by news media from CTV and CNN.

But the greatest benefit could be the international exposure generated by media coverage of the summit.

"The interest in Canmore, Kananaskis and the whole area will increase after we’ve been on TV for a month or so," Groundwater told the Canmore Leader .

The benefits of hosting international trade conference also have to be weighed against the costs, including security and the negative impressions that may result from media coverage of protesters clashing with police.

Whistler was being considered as a possible host for the 2002 G-8 Summit before Kananaskis was selected.

The resort municipality has also been discussed as a site for the World Economic Forum, which currently holds its annual meetings in Davos, Switzerland.

Readers also liked…

Latest in Whistler

More by Greig Bethel

© 1994-2020 Pique Publishing Inc., Glacier Community Media

- Website powered by Foundation