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Tourism Whistler takes control of Whistler.com

Resort partners align

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Tourism Whistler has taken over operations of Whistler.com, a locally owned holiday reservations business.

"We think it is a very significant move from the perspective of aligning the resort," said Tourism Whistler president Barrett Fisher.

The central reservations company has been operating in the resort since December 2000.

In June of 2004 the Resort Municipality of Whistler bought 51 per cent of the shares of the company. This week Tourism Whistler announced that it had purchased the remaining 49 per cent of the shares.

TW will be the sole manager and operator of the company. The purchase price cannot be revealed, said Fisher, adding that the money for the transaction came from a provincial and federal grant related to the Olympics.

For the next six months there will be a transition period and review during which TW will operate the site as well as continuing its relationship with Intrawest Central Reservations.

ICR has worked as TW’s outsourced central reservations fulfillment agency for the last three and a half years.

Fisher said TW had to give ICR six months notice before cutting ties with the reservations operation. No penalties have to be paid.

"ICR has been an excellent partner and Tourism Whistler has enjoyed a strong working relationship," said Fisher.

"However, the opportunity to access the intuitive URL on behalf of, and for the benefit of our members has superceded the fulfillment agreement with our existing reservations provider."

Fisher said the opportunity is exciting since TW can put some of its expertise in research to work on the site offering specials to visitors.

"We can analyze what are the packages that customers really want," said Fisher.

"If air access is a barrier do we go out into the market with air credits? We can start maximizing our research."

Fisher described the 2010 Winter Olympic Games as another critical part of the reservations puzzle. With all eyes turning to Vancouver and Whistler with the close of the 2006 Games in Italy more and more people around the world will want to find out about the resort.

The natural place to start is simply to input the Whistler name. By owning the Whistler.com site and the 1-800-WHISTLER phone number the resort is poised to capture that interest.

"The Olympics is a critical piece," said Fisher.

"After Torino, Whistler and Vancouver are suddenly going to be on the international stage as far as profile and exposure and the name Whistler will become that much more recognizable."

Any net income from the community-owned asset would be re-invested into marketing.

The deal is also great news for the RMOW.

"The municipality originally invested in Whistler.com to ensure this community asset remained a permanent part of the overall Whistler infrastructure," said Bill Barratt, administrator for the RMOW.

"Partnering with Tourism Whistler is now part of the long-term strategy with Whistler.com – this is a good example of the type of partnership that will make Whistler more unified and stronger moving toward 2010."

A five-member board of directors will oversee Whistler.com: two appointed directors from the RMOW, two appointed directors from Tourism Whistler and one independent director.

A general manager will be hired by Tourism Whistler on a contract basis to assist with the six-month review.

Other than the appointment of an interim GM the current operating structure and staffing at Whistler.com will remain unchanged during the review period.

Whistler.com president Janice Pickwell admitted that it would be hard to let go of the company.

"I created Whistler.com and have lived and breathed this company for so many years it will be tough to let it go," she said.

"Ultimately, I know it is an extremely important asset to the community and I am pleased that Whistler will have control of this brand for the benefit of the entire resort."

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