Although a last-minute rush is possible, Tourism Whistler is estimating that business could be down between 10 and 20 per cent over the Christmas holiday, comparing bookings to this time last year.
Spokesman Jeff McDonald says there is no way to estimate the impact of less snow or of the recent Excalibur Gondola accident on bookings, but said they expected bookings to be down because of the difficult economic climate.
“Bookings for Christmas and New Year’s have increased since last week, but we’re pacing behind last year,” he said. “We are currently pacing down between 10 and 20 per cent from last year, but this is a projection and we won’t know the exact number until several weeks after the holiday season ends.”
Through Whistler.com and other promotions, he says the resort is continuing to offer promotions and deals through the holidays.
Conference bookings are also down for January and February, and there have been group and conference business cancellations.
“It seems some companies are pulling back and choosing to have their corporate gatherings closer to home,” said McDonald. “Again, this appears to be due to the tough economic times all resorts, not just our resort, are experiencing.”
McDonald also emphasized the positive, including the nine World Cup events that will be held at Whistler’s three 2010 Olympic venues, as well as the Peak 2 Peak gondola.
Snowfall has been an issue this year, with only a few lifts and runs open at mid-mountain. There was a 62 cm snow base on Wednesday, significantly lower than this time last year. The alpine has not opened, although Horstman Glacier is running on Blackcomb.
More snow is predicted over the weekend, up to 10 cm for Sunday, as a low pressure system moves into the area for Christmas.
Some much-need snow could make all the difference this year. Early booking numbers are not as reliable, as visitors are booking closer to their travel dates than in the past.
Trevor Graham, general manager of the Westin Resort and Spa, said it’s been hard to gauge visitors.
“Business is still out there, but it is so last minute,” he said. “American Thanksgiving filled three days prior to the weekend. Cornucopia, that same weekend we did as well as we did last year, but… last year it was maybe a month in advance or three weeks in advance, now it is a week to two weeks.”
— With notes from Claire Piech.