Attracting destination education groups to Whistler in the future will take more effort and organization locally to provide those groups with what they need, according to a report delivered to council this week.
The Whistler Education Group (WEG), formed earlier this summer, set out to look at the potential for bringing instructors and students to Whistler in a way that would provide the maximum benefit to the community.
In a presentation of the group’s findings to council at Committee of the Whole on Tuesday (Oct. 16), Stephen Milstein said there is unused space in the resort that can provide a venue for small education groups looking to hold educational courses.
He said there are opportunities to utilize that excess capacity and other resources that can be developed to attract those groups here that as a result would increase education tourism spending in Whistler.
“Our focus is the education first priorities, since Whistler already has a competent strategy for the tourism vacation market,” Milstein said. “We believe that there is enough space here that we can get started.”
The market of destination education travellers is made up of smaller groups that are offering training in various disciplines, in both formal accreditation and informal learning formats.
Generally between five and 25 people in size, Milstein said they struggle in Whistler with finding space, the cost to rent space and finding operational support locally for the educational courses.
Milstein said he regularly plans and holds training courses, but while he lives in Whistler he only ever once organized a course here.
“There was no structure here to help me put it together and it took a lot of time and effort,” he said.
The report that was presented to council was the results of a study conducted by students from the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), under the direction of a professor from the school Laurie Grant, who is also a member of WEG.
Among other areas, the students looked at the overall destination education travel market, researched possible models for Whistler and reviewed the current inventory of assets locally.
The report identified there is a tourism market out there comprised of those interested in taking a vacation with education as the first priority. It also identified the potential needs providers of those courses have in order to offer destination education opportunities.
To be successful, Milstein said, infrastructure to support learning like an interactive website that identifies available meeting space is needed along with an organized directed marketing program to both providers and potential students.
“We are not looking to start a new business and we are not looking to start a new model,” he said. “Ideally an existing organization will take this on.”
Milstein told council the BCIT student group will conduct phase two of the project to further verify market trends, quantify the excess capacity locally, further differentiate destination education providers from conference groups and provide a detailed pricing model.