Dec 1, 2007 | Marmot, Winter 2007

Marketing Mount Washington… A Bright Future Ahead!

After years of careful planning, Mount Washington has its own Resort Association. The Association, doing business as Tourism Mount Washington, will promote, facilitate and encourage the development, maintenance and operation of Mount Washington Alpine Resort and association members.

The woman in charge of Tourism Mount Washington is Sarah Nicholson, an experienced marketing strategist based in the Comox Valley. Nicholson was running her own marketing consultancy business when the new job came up at Mount Washington.

Her first two months on the job were spent researching similar resort associations and liaising with other organizations that already exist at Mount Washington.

Although it seems like Tourism Mount Washington is starting from the beginning, “we’re following a tried and true model,” she added. The purpose behind Tourism Mount Washington will be to co-ordinate the common interests of all property owners, businesses and stakeholders and to promote their “all-season” alpine resort, Nicholson said. “This alone is a key benefit to…stakeholders who operate on small budgets and who lack the time, resource and expertise to effectively market their products to their full potential.”

“The talking started years ago that really you need somebody on the mountain that brings in all of the stakeholders – there’s lots of people that have a stake in Mount Washington and its operations,” Resort Director of Marketing Karen Bonell said. What a tourism destination marketing organization does is bring in everybody’s opinion on what direction the Resort should go and how it should go about it, Bonell said. Most resorts have a tourism association, she said, using Sun Peaks as an example.

Although Bonell has sat on the Comox Valley Tourism board and seen what that destination marketing organization has done, she said it wasn’t appropriate for Mount Washington. “That’s really specific to the Comox Valley. We really are between the Comox Valley and Campbell River. We’re not tied to one or the other. We see it in many, many ways where we’re on our own.”

Membership will be voluntary for the majority of homeowners already on the mountain. For newer developments, like Deer and Bear Lodge and Beaufort Heights, membership is mandatory. Fees will be determined on a sliding scale, based on homeowners and sub-lease holders. There are also other categories of membership set up for others. Fees will not be split per unit or number of buildings, but per home or sub-lease. “We worked on fees very carefully to make sure they were fair while we build up the Association and get it off the ground,” Nicholson said. The Association’s budget will come from membership fees. She estimates the startup budget will be around $140,000.

In return, stakeholders will become part of a collaborated marketing strategy designed to encourage multi-night, mid-week stays and destination stays, which Nicholson is developing. Stakeholders will also gain a forum where they can communicate their thoughts on the direction Resort development is taking, and they will have a voice and a vote on who they want to represent their interests in the Mount Washington Tourism Association. Right now, the Board has been appointed. In the future, elections will take place.

Both Nicholson and Bonell said the stakeholders have reacted positively to the Resort Association. “There’s a lot of support,” Nicholson said. “It’s something that’s been necessary for a long time. A lot of people have been looking for it.”

“The whole idea here is it can’t be just Mount Washington Resort as we grow,” Bonell said. “It has to be a bigger entity. We have no stake in accommodation up here (for example). As we grow we can expect a lot more commercial businesses up here. They will be part of the Resort Association. “This is young; it will take awhile,” Bonell said. “It’s not something that is going to happen overnight.”

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