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Business not-so usual

Growth in regional visitors helps Whistler fend off tough economic year


With a collective sigh the resort is getting ready to put the winter season to bed.

For some it’s not a moment too soon as challenges in getting long-haul U.S. travellers to the resort continued to plague businesses all winter.

For others the season’s ups and downs were predictable.

Tourism Whistler’s President Barrett Fisher acknowledged that U.S. long-haul business was down 20 to 25 per cent.

And room-nights were down seven per cent overall.

That’s significant when you realize that the U.S. market has traditionally made up 40 per cent of the visitors to Whistler.

However, strong gains in the regional market, and increases in visitors from Eastern Canada and other traditional markets such as the U.K. and Australia somewhat mitigated what could have been a disastrous year.

"This has been a tough year for us," said Fisher.

"But at the same time we are fortunate that we do have a balanced portfolio of markets and that we have mitigated some of the larger decreases by the strengths that we have within Canada and the U.K. primarily."

The decrease in U.S. travellers was no surprise to Tourism Whistler, which had research to that effect early on. It was one of the reasons why the organization focused on regional marketing and promotions in certain destination markets, along with the U.S.

There were still grumblings in the resort that the mountains and others should have been more proactive in cutting costs early on as it became apparent that U.S long haul guests were staying away.

But Fisher defended her organization saying that Tourism Whistler is aggressive and it works to maintain the resorts prestigious but affordable reputation globally.

"Dollar for dollar we believe that Whistler offers the best value and we will make sure that we maintain our competitive edge," she said.

"We are rolling out programs in all of our markets and planning for next season and we will be as aggressive as ever.

"Tourism Whistler rolled out a television campaign to the regional market letting them know that Whistler is, even in high season, very good value. Sometimes it takes a little bit of time for the perception to catch up with the reality and that is why it is important that we hammer home the messages that Whistler is good value.

"We do have to make sure that we are customer driven and that we do have to meet the needs of what customers are looking for in today’s market place. But we refuse to get caught up in any stereotype that Whistler is this or Whistler is that.

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