B.C.’s resort industry to get major expansion before the 2010 Olympics

Posted by admin on Oct 10th, 2004

Global investors are being promised faster approvals and better transportation. Michael Kane, Vancouver Sun. Thursday, September 23, 2004

Longer tenures and the sale of Crown lands are highlights of a government strategy to substantially expand B.C.’s multi-billion-dollar resort industry in the run-up to the 2010 Olympics. Global investors are also being promised speedier approvals and improved transportation infrastructure. “If you build it, they won’t come if they can’t get there,” Sandy Santori, minister of state for resort development, told the Vancouver Board of Trade Wednesday. Tourists already spend about $2 billion at B.C. resorts every year, spinning off almost $2 billion more in related direct spending. More than 700 resorts — ranging from small, remote fishing lodges to world-class destination sites — employ more than 26,000 people. And there is now $3.3 billion worth of new resort proposals and expansion plans on the drawing board around the province.

Santori, a former mayor of Trail, said more resorts will create jobs and build “a serious economic engine” in battered rural and resource-based communities.

With 95 million hectares, B.C. is the size of Washington, Oregon and California put together — the size of Western Europe — and 94 per cent of it is public land.

“Think about it. We’ve got an ocean at our doorstep and mountains that are the envy of the world. We’ve got dense rainforests, and our very own desert. It’s this sort of diversity that makes British Columbia unique and well-positioned for the busy tourism years ahead.”

Santori said a green industry like resort development needs to be managed well, and that means honouring and protecting the natural and undisturbed surroundings that attract vacationers in the first place.

“Quite simply, the world is watching closely and placing high values on environmental sustainability, no matter what sector you are working in — forestry, mining, oil and gas, and yes, tourism and resort development.”

He said the government has fostered a commitment of cooperation between municipalities, tourism operators, resource sector leaders and First Nations, and this is reflected in the key recommendations of the B.C. Resort Task Force which
spent a year touring the province.

These include streamlining “cumbersome policies and timelines” that restrict access to land and offering long-term tenures to encourage investment.

At Red Mountain Resorts near Rossland, for example, a temporary 20-year occupation licence has been replaced by a 50-year, ski-area agreement, opening the door to $33 million of investment that could attract up to 10,000 skiers and snowboarders a day.

A new all-season resort policy framework will also allow the sale of remote resorts, such as heli-skiing parks, and permit “controlled recreation area” status to allow for four-season resort activities.

Resort communities emerging in places such as Valemount, Blue River, Tofino, Rossland, Squamish, Kimberley, Penticton, Invermere, Golden and Fernie, see the same year-round potential as Whistler, Santori said.

“More people now visit Whistler in the summer than they do in the winter. The transition from a resort to a resort community has resulted in a market where $1 million is spent every day.”

As B.C. readies for the 2010 Winter Games, he said it will also be strengthening the resort sector with highway improvements, airport expansions, improved ferry terminals, upgraded vessel, and rail initiatives.

To help spread the word, small business minister John Les is developing an investment plan that will see B.C. resort opportunities marketed globally.

“Our resort investors are from Europe, Australia, Asia and North America and our reach is growing,” Santori said. “We’re fully committed to extending and improving the security of tenures and we’re offering certainty through the strategic use of Crown land that will be a catalyst for economic partnerships.”


Highlights of more than $3.3 billion in projected investments in the B.C. resort industry over the next five years:

– Big White in Kelowna: $250-million that will include a ski and snowboard terrain park, a new day lodge and expanding the ski terrain by 200 acres. Peak season will see 1,100 jobs at the resort.

– Silver Star in Vernon: $150 million that will include construction of 50 new condos in the village and development of 100 building lots.

– Sun Peaks in Kamloops: Phase two of a $270-million expansion to provide 6,000 additional bed units.

– Bear Mountain development on southern Vancouver Island: 2,200 homes, two golf courses and a retail village. Construction of roads and utilities alone has generated about $350 million in economic activity.

– Red Mountain in Rossland: $33 million over the next two years to upgrade lifts and expand the ski terrain.

– Kicking Horse in Golden: $15 million to expand and upgrade facilities, including six lifts, a gondola and commercial and real estate development.

– Panorama in Invermere: Nearing completion of 1,000 Peaks Summit and Lodge expansion and poised to begin 24 new townhomes.

– Fernie Alpine Resort: $15 million to begin its Timber Landing subdivision. Plus a Greg Norman golf resort coming soon.

– Proposals on the table for resorts in Squamish, Invermere, Blue River, Nelson, Osoyoos and Revelstoke.

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