Alberta urged to tap digital
JASPER, Alberta – A representative of Travel Alberta was in Jasper recently to explain how the province’s tourism industry could expand. Cameron Spence explained that local tourism operators need to tie in with the provincial digital marketing efforts.
“The future of destination tourism market is really digital,” he told the small crowd. “Customers are absorbing information through digital channels, and you need to make sure you have a lot of content available to them.”
Alberta also hopes to make a better play on visitors from foreign lands, something at which British Columbia seems to be more effective.
Cameron explained that international travelers represent 4 percent of visitors but produce 17 percent of tourism revenue.
But Alberta needs more “adventures.” Cameron noted that Jonview Canada, a leading Canadian reception tour company, offers only 5 percent of its journeys in Alberta, compared to 52 percent in British Columbia.
Tough Mudder draws 20,000
WHISTLER, B.C. – The Tough Mudder drew an estimated 20,000 people to Whistler on Summer Solstice to experience the joys of sweating, getting electrocuted at low levels, and, of course, getting very, very muddy.
Strictly as a business proposition, it’s a huge deal for Whistler, changing the resort’s hotel occupancy from 51 percent on that weekend to 93 percent. Pique Newsmagazine notes that the weekend now competes with some of the resort’s busiest dates, including events like Crankworx, the mountain bike competition.
Pique explains that the Tough Mudder was created by two Brits, studying at Harvard Business School, who conceived of an endurance event consistingo f 20 to 25 military-style obstacles over a 16- to 22-kilometer course. The first one was held in Pennsylvania in 2010.
What’s the draw? Marvin Zuckerman, a professor of clinical psychology, has a hypothesis that because most of our lives are relatively safe and controlled, adventure racing is a way of feeling that rush of adrenaline you get from stepping outside your comfort zone.
Don Schwartz, a Whistlerite who finished third in the World’s Toughest Mudder held last year in New Jersey, says cooperation, not competition, is at the heart of the draw. “It’s incredible to see the sense of camaraderie that occurs in events such as these. There’s almost an unwritten rule to help people out.”
Building still lags 2007
ASPEN, Colo. – Building is up this year in Aspen, a bellwether town among resorts. The Aspen Daily News reports $124 million in building permits through the first half of the year. At this rate, Aspen is likely to surpass last year’s final tally of $203 million, although not approaching the record-setting $371 million in building permits in 2007.
Vail expanding WiFi
VAIL, Colo. – Vail’s Wi-Fi highway is expanding. The town has had community Wi-Fi since 2006 and added to its capacity in 2008 with a $1 million contribution to a fiber-optic cable. Still, it’s not enough, the Vail Daily notes.
To prepare for the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships, when the town of 6,000 can be expected to swell to 35,000 and perhaps more, the town has agreed to provide 2,000 square feet of prime commercial space for use by a company called Aspen Wireless.
The new system is unique in the United States and is designed to deliver better service to places with geographical constraints such as mountains and winding, narrow valleys. Instead of one big tower for each cell company, the new system will yield 29 nodes through the town, which is about eight miles long. The project is expected to be completed by late this year.
Aspen leaves cash cow alone
ASPEN, Colo. – In theory, legalizing cannabis in Colorado was going to end the back-alley peddling while producing more revenue for schools and other civic betterments. But state and local jurisdictions are walking a tight line. Tack on too many taxes and the only people frequenting the recreational marijuana stores will be tourists.
At least in part, that’s why the Aspen City Council has postponed a decision on levying an additional sales tax. Mayor Steve Skadron said he didn’t think an additional tax would stop tourists from buying retail marijuana, but it might push local purchasers back into the black market.
Marijuana sales are currently a cash cow. First there are the basic state, county, and town sales taxes, which in Aspen edge over 9 percent. The state then imposes another 10 percent sales tax on retail marijuana sales. Plus, there’s a 15 percent excise tax included in the pre-sales tax price.
Aspen was considering a 1 percent sales tax. Other mountain towns — Breckenridge, Telluride and Idaho Springs – have enacted taxes of 3 to 5 percent.
But the effect of piling too many straws on its camel’s back? “Wait a year and let the industry mature,” advised Steve Barwick, the city manager. And so Aspen will do so.