Working on Whistler's paunch 

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CBC Vancouver radio host, and weekend columnist in the Globe and Mail, Stephen Quinn recently visited Whistler. He wasn't impressed.

He wrote about his experience in the July 20 Globe and Mail under the headline: Not-so-family-friendly dining in Whistler Village.

It started with an underwhelming experience at a Whistler restaurant where Quinn and his family celebrated his wife's birthday. And it continued on from there.

"But the lacklustre experience of our first meal was repeated time and time again over the weekend. At other restaurants, at information kiosks — even reporting a lost camera was met with a stunning lack of sympathy. In every case this was not some systemic problem — a lack of staff or a sudden rush of customers. It came down to whether the individual in front of us cared enough to deliver more than the bare minimum. Most often they did not."


And the unimpressive service, naturally, translated to an impression of Whistler as a whole.

"This is a resort that three years ago welcomed the world. It was at the top of its game. Now it feels a little like a middle-aged man in a comfortable relationship. It has grown a slight paunch, and can spend some time on the couch. It no longer feels the need to impress."

Quinn did have praise for a woman who sold them gondola tickets and pointed them to a family-friendly hike on the mountain. But she was the exception rather than the rule.

This, of course, is one person's opinion, based on one weekend experience in Whistler. It may not be representative of most people's experience in Whistler, but that's not the point. Quinn felt strongly enough about his experience here to write about it. For a national publication and its website.

Of course, in the 21st century it doesn't stop there. The story was Tweeted. It was the subject of discussion on Facebook. And several people commented on the Globe and Mail's website, most of them rallying to the cause when the opportunity to dump on Whistler presented itself.

The potential spillover effect may eventually be seen on ratings websites like Travelocity, Tripadvisor, and numerous others. Not to mention that the story will show up any time someone does an Internet search that involves the words "Whistler" and "service" from now until the day the Globe and Mail ceases to exist.

So, does Whistler have a problem providing the service people expect? There are lots of people in Whistler who provide excellent service to visitors. But at least a few people think there is a problem. So, in a business built on impressions — tourism — that is a problem.

We expend a lot of time, money and thought on marketing Whistler and trying to boost the local economy. We worry about emerging tourism markets in China and India. We can try to tempt day-trippers into staying the night. We can package festivals and events with affordable hotel rates. We can bemoan archaic liquor laws and we can trumpet our physical surroundings. But it's the human side of the equation that sticks out in people's minds.

As Quinn wrote: "There is no denying the natural beauty of the place.


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