In her letter to the editor of Nov. 18, Barrett Fisher purported to educate me on Tourism Whistler’s marketing efforts. In the interest of fostering public discussion regarding Tourism Whistler’s attitude toward its own performance, let me ask what exactly is the quality of the education Ms. Fisher and the collective “we” at Tourism Whistler purport to deliver?
Ms. Fisher acknowledges that Tourism Whistler cannot speak on behalf of all of Whistler's marketing. Let’s also disabuse ourselves once and for all of the notion that Tourism Whistler is responsible only to its members. Tourism Whistler (TW) occupies public facilities and relies heavily on public support, and as such TW owes a moral duty do the best it can for all of Whistler.
There are significant sectors of the Whistler economy — in particular retail and the private sector property management companies — who would say that TW results for the community at large are not nearly as positive as Tourism Whistler suggests.
Ms. Fisher says that Tourism Whistler has changed its strategies, that Tourism Whistler’s strategies are “current, relevant and customer-focused,” and that they have “taken leaps with unique and distinctive creative campaigns.”
That’s all well and good, but isn’t that what marketing agencies are supposed to do? While it is encouraging that Tourism Whistler is now taking leaps, Tourism Whistler has always prided itself on its efforts be in the forefront. So there is nothing new here.
Ms. Fisher then notes that Tourism Whistler was a finalist in the Tourism Industry Association of Canada national marketing awards for two of its campaigns, campaigns Tourism Whistler made sure we were all aware of. There’s nothing new here either. Peer recognition is something to be proud of — however, it is important to note that both awards commended efforts, not results. Similarly, big increases in web visits and Facebook likes indicate successful efforts, not successful results.
Tourism Whistler deserves an “A” for creativity and effort. Whether those efforts have produced results is still an open question.
Ms. Fisher says the summer of 2013 was the busiest summer on record “for room nights” and that the last two winter seasons have been our “strongest winters on record.”
Even more encouraging, we are seeing an increase of 40 per cent in this winter's Whistler.com pace of bookings.
Isn’t all of that like Mercedes Benz crowing because they have sold more Smart Cars at blowout prices? What Whistler needs is wider margins. We can get all the people we want to look at websites and send us pictures, or to come here at $99 per night, but if profits are not up along with visitor numbers then we are not driving the kind of business we need. There is nothing new and useful here either.
The way I see it, Tourism Whistler is trying hard with the resources they have available. As Ms. Fisher and the few others who read this column know, I firmly believe Tourism Whistler’s funding base should be expanded to pursue higher-end clients and greater profits.
What’s really important in a tourism town is guest experience, profits, real estate values, lifestyle and standards of living. The rest is smoke and mirrors.
The business community in this town is smart enough to know when it is hearing something worth learning and when it is being sold a bag of goods. We’re not seeing the whole picture here.
Tourism Whistler has an excellent statistics department. Why not give the entire community some real numbers?
Nicholas Davies is a lawyer, mediator and arbitrator who lives in Whistler and Vancouver. Nick practices throughout British Columbia. Wherever he goes he asks people how well they know Whistler. The results could be better.