Whistler to put on friendly face for visitors 

Tourists should have little trouble finding their way around Whistler with the introduction of the "ASK ME! I'm a Local" program, to launch Oct. 1 at the Garibaldi Lift Company.

The program, an initiative of the Resort Municipality of Whistler, aims to show tourists a friendly face during the 2010 Games and beyond, and allow them to approach as many people as possible if they need help getting around and finding what they need in the community.

What kind of experience do you need? Very little if you're already a resident. You don't even have to have lived here for 10 years. All you need is to volunteer to put a brightly-coloured "ASK ME!" button on your jacket and assist visitors in pointing them in the right direction, or simply recommend a nice restaurant to leave a good impression on guests.

"The program is based on the idea that no matter where you go, it is always the people that make your trip memorable," Janis McKenzie, a cofounder of the program with tourist friend Dan Perdue, said in a news release. "Whistler is full of friendly, knowledgable and caring people.

"The simplest act, such as snapping a photo of a couple, can have a huge impact on their trip."

Locals will be asked to wear the "ASK ME!" buttons as they go about their lives while showing visitors they're there to offer a helping hand, according to the news release. Buttons can be found in five languages and proponents expect the program to last beyond the Games.

"This program is permanent and while the timing is advantageous, 'ASK ME! I'm a Local' has not been developed specifically for the Winter Games," McKenzie said. "We had a greater vision to become the most friendly, caring and supportive tourist community in the world."

Those wishing to participate can come to the launch event at Garibaldi Lift Company on Oct. 1 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. There participants can ask how they can have a positive impact on Whistler's visitor experience. Attendees have been asked to register at www.askmeimalocal.com, as space is limited.



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