By Allen Best
Looking for help
WHISTLER, B.C. – While unemployment has been nudging 10 percent in the United States, service-based businesses in Whistler have been finding it difficult to get employees.
“I’m unable to recruit people,” said Wayne Katz, owner of a bakery. “The industry I’m in, food and beverage, we find it very difficult to get a response from Canadians to work in our industry.”
That anecdotal story squares with a broader story found in a new report from provincial authorities. The report warns Whistler to expect a shortage of 3,500 workers during the next few years.
Within Canada, Whistler is not alone in its labor shortage. Like the United States, it has an out-sized segment of baby boomers, but with an even larger lump in the population python. Boomers are now starting to retire – now driving demand for services, but filling little of the need.
From 2007 to 2010, a Canadian program allowed employers to apply for visas for employees from foreign countries, with expedited processing of just five business days. Now, however, the process once again takes months. And Australia, formerly fertile ground for temporary workers, no longer is.
Arlene Keis, chief executive of go2, a consulting firm retained to help Whistler Chamber of Commerce update how it will deal with labor shortages, told Pique Newsmagazine that Whistler is not drawing unemployed autoworkers from the eastern provinces of Canada. “And then, of course, here we are, listening to the United States cry, cry, cry that there is a huge recession and that they have a huge amount of unemployment. Why can’t we get more people across the border?”
Leave the toilet paper at home
SALIDA, Colo. – And what type of flower commonly seen in wilderness areas frequented by hikers produces tufts of white? Why, that’s no flower. It’s toilet paper, and there’s an abundance of it in the meadows and woods, reports Kim Hoover in Salida’s Mountain Mail.
She theorizes that most of the T.P. has been left by women. Being a woman herself, she offers these suggestions: If you just tinkle, let it be, or just use a leaf, a clump of grass or a twig. Otherwise, bury it at least 6 inches deep.
“Leave the toilet paper in the bathroom, where it belongs,” she concludes in her letter.
Whitefish adds zip
WHITEFISH, Mont. – Zip lines are becoming quite the rage. Crested Butte launched one this summer, and recently announced plans to continue operations through the winter. Durango Mountain Resort also has a successful zip line, called the Purgatory Plunge.
Now comes news from Whitefish Mountain Resort, which already has a zip line of seven “tours,” as segments are called. The Whitefish Pilot reports an estimated 12,000 tours this year, after 9,500 last year.
Telluride film gains acclaim
TELLURIDE, Colo. – It’s always interesting to see what towns writers can cite without feeling the need to identify their states. Chicago and New York, of course, and perhaps a dozen or two more.
But in the world of resorts, there are precious few. Aspen leads the list, and perhaps Vail and Jackson Hole. But a piece in the New Yorker this summer mentioned Telluride without identifying that it’s in Colorado.
Telluride got plenty more ink after Labor Day, when it held its big Hollywood-based film festival. The festival this year received many laudatory marks from national film critics. “Telluride has become the turning point, as well as the high point – 8,750 feet at base camp – of the movie year,” wrote Joe Morgenstern, of the Wall Street Journal.
Aspen places international bets
ASPEN, Colo. – With the U.S. economy still jittery, the Aspen Skiing Co. is placing its bets on the international market. Vail is, too.
Both ski towns have always done well with international skiers, more than 10 percent most years, but the weak dollar is enticing more to book trips early, a senior executive recently told a local chamber group.
“Whether we like it or not, the U.S. is for sale (for people) from Austria and Brazil – two of our biggest markets,” states John Rigney, vice president for sales and special events. In a meeting covered by The Aspen Times, he reported that the company, which has four ski areas in the Aspen area, has spent 500 days on the road in 18 countries and 49 U.S. cities.
Aspen is still recovering from the drop in skier visits in 2008-2009. However, last year skier visits were up 2 percent.
In Vail, there has been talk for several years about more direct air links to international destinations. Vail always has attracted Mexico’s economic elite, and the exchange rate makes it a favorable destination for Canadians. To expedite that air travel, there is discussion of customs facilities at the local airport.
Cultivating international markets “offers a clearer path for Vail to weather another potential recession,” says the monthly newsletter of the Vail Homeowners Association.
Challenges for Canadian tourism
BANFF, Alberta – A new report from tourism operators in Banff National Park predicts a doubling of tourism by 2020. In particular, the firm foresees an increase in long-haul tourism.
“As we approach 2020, the proportion of long-haul travel is expected to increase to nearly 25 percent of all international trips,” said Ryan Brain in an interview with the Rocky Mountain Outlook. Brain is a senior advisor at Deloitte, an international consulting and auditing firm with a tourism, hospital and leisure division based in Toronto.
Banff and other Canadian resorts will face what he describes as a “value challenge,” but while the experience has remained little altered, the cost has increased. The report cites the example of a visit to Toronto, the theater, zoo, and museum, which increased from $388 a day to $531 a day in 6 years.
From the perspective of Banff, Mayor Karen Sorenson said surveys have shown that there is doubt among tourists about whether they’re getting value for their money. The answer, she said, is “animals and vibrancy and the whole concept of being delighted.”
• Brand recognition, rather than location, is becoming the most important deciding factor for travelers when choosing where to go.
• Green tourism is a continuing trend. People want to help the planet while experiencing it.
• Adventure travel is also a growing component.
• Younger travelers are traveling often within Canada and spending more. Females appear to value vacations more.
Julie Canning, chief executive of Banff Lake Louise Tourism, said Banff hopes to link more strongly to the cruise ships out of Vancouver. “It’s the cruise, rail and Rockies tour,” she told the Outlook.