For the sixth year in a row, Whistler again hosted a B.C. wood industry conference last week — but a changing demographic in attendees offered an opportunity for resort officials to connect with international delegates interested in the resort.
The 2011 Global Buyers Mission (GBM), organized by the B.C. Wood Specialties Group, took place at the Whistler Conference Centre last Thursday through Saturday (Sept. 8 to 10). The event saw about 700 attendees including buyers from around the world and wood companies from across B.C.
According to organizers, about 70 per cent of buyers, attendees and sellers were participating in the conference for the first time. With the recent decline of American markets for B.C. wood, more buyers came from Asian markets such as China and Korea.
Those are areas Whistler has been trying to reach from a tourism standpoint, and at least one municipal official had the chance to promote the resort to a group of conference attendees.
Mike Vance, RMOW general manager of policy and program development, was asked to speak at the conference on behalf of the Council of Forest Industries, according to information provided by the municipal communications department.
The delegation of China-based land developers was interested to learn if they can build a resort like Whistler and use some of the municipality’s best practices as a model, a spokesperson said. Vance’s presentation focused on Whistler’s success as a resort, including its evolution, leading-edge practices and strong brand.
The group of about 30 people was also taken on a tour of the Whistler Public Library, the Rainbow neighbourhood and the Lost Lake Passivhaus to learn more about green and energy-efficient building features and the use of wood as a sustainable resource.
Whistler is a great place to host the GBM conference because it’s a really good showcase of B.C. wood and its uses, said Mike Cunningham, a representative for the conference.
“Look at the chalets, the residential homes, the construction — even the convention centre itself,” he said.
Besides Whistler’s abundance of wood, keeping the GBM in the resort helps to keep the invitation-only event small in order to keep that face-to-face interaction, according to Cunningham.
“For the buyers and the sellers the real advantage of this conference is that it gives them that opportunity to interact in a little more of a relaxed setting,” Cunningham said.
There was also plenty of opportunity for delegates to enjoy Whistler.
“They go golfing, they go up the gondola. Its spectacular scenery and they love it,” Cunningham said. “A lot of people bring their spouses with them too and compared to being somewhere stuck in a hotel, we intentionally design the conference with a lot of free time.”
It’s important to have the conference each year in order to attract new buyers and allow smaller B.C. companies to sell their B.C. wood products to the large international market, Cunningham added.
“For a large- to medium-sized company trying to sell to a huge market in China, if they have never done business in a place like that before it can be quite daunting for them to jump on a plane and fly over there and start looking for people to buy their product.”