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Whistler front-line staffers urged to ‘wow’ guests this winter

Blog by Nick Swinburne | November 15th, 2010

Front-line employees in Whistler need to be “agents of change” by finding ways to “wow” guests in their effort to be part of the resort’s current and future succcess, the keynote speaker told his audience during the 2010 Whistler Spirit Luncheon this week.

As a way to spur his audience into action, Stuart Ellis-Myers had those in attendance at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler on Tuesday (Nov. 9) jumping up and down in clown noses, pretending to have just won $50 million.

“Why don’t we do something today, something that’s never been done in a resort?” said Ellis-Myers, also known as Twitchy because of the twitch that came about because he has Tourette’s syndrome.

He hasn’t let it keep him down. In fact, he has turned it into an asset.

“What’s your twitch? Once you figure out what it is, it can be your biggest strength,” he explained.

“Your HR in Whistler is exceptional. You’ve got hugely educated, motivated people,” Ellis-Myers said, urging front-line employees to go above and beyond the call of duty to make guests feel happy and welcome.

The Chamber of Commerce’s Spirit program is using the Serve-Us Challenge, Spirit seminars and the Recognition Dinner to promote a high standard of service across the resort, attendees were told.

That’s the message being sent to guests even before they arrive. Arlene Schieven, vice president of marketing at Tourism Whistler, said TW’s current marketing campaign is “a visual campaign, based on ‘Permission to Celebrate.”’

The Whistler brand is based upon five characteristics, she said: natural beauty, genuine and welcoming, world-class, vibrant and youthful, and active and adventurous.

This message is being advertised on CTV and in places such as Los Angeles, Chicago and the London Underground. This year, TW will have “more image advertising, focusing on more of the destination markets,” Schieven said.

TW’s research this year found that Whistler’s customers are “recession-weary,” that “fun is in,” that “the Olympics affirmed our brand position” and that “Whistler has an infectious energy that was celebrated here during the Games, but lives here always,” Schieven said.

Doug Forseth, senior vice-president of operations at Whistler Blackcomb (WB), had big news: “As of today, Whistler Blackcomb will no longer be part of Intrawest!” Shares in Whistler Blackcomb Holdings traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange for the first time on Tuesday.

The Fitzsimmons Creek micro-hydro project is “running very successfully. That’s creating all the power, 32 gigawatt hours a year,” Forseth said. WB is also running a behavioural program to conserve power, which company officials expect will save a further 1.3 kilowatt hours this year.

For this winter, WB bought four new Pisten Bully 600 snowcats, two of which are winchcats. There will be an increased focus on the terrain park, with a new halfpipe on Blackcomb, and four new snow guns, Forseth said.

Helmets are now mandatory for all racing events and programs, all terrain parks, all park rangers and all instructors when helmets are required for guests.

As of Tuesday, Whistler Mountain now had 60 centimetres of snow at Pig Alley, and 160 snow guns operating. Because it’s La Niña this year, Forseth expects temperatures to be colder: “Temperatures are about 2 degrees Celsius below normal and it’s pre-disposed to dump snow in our region,” he said.

Opening day is still officially Nov. 25, but “we might be able to bump that up a bit further, so get them skis waxed,” Forseth urged.