There were plenty of U.S. plates in the parking lots this past American Thanksgiving weekend, and that was good news for Whistler.
And there is no doubt that the publicity garnered around North America by Whistler-Blackcomb opening one day early also helped.
But there is no escaping, either, the effect the recession is having and will have on tourism, or the lack of snow in the valley.
Occupancy was down at the Pan Pacific Properties over U.S. Thanksgiving compared to last year said general manager Jim Douglas. But he said: “It is far too early to speculate some of the causes of the weekend being down a bit.
“We haven’t seen on the west coast of North America those big storms that blow in with lots of snowfall which gets people excited about going to ski resorts. We haven’t seen that weather yet.”
According to recent Tourism Whistler reports, bookings leading into the Thanksgiving were down 9 per cent over last year. But early snow in 2007 was a big draw for that Thanksgiving weekend.
Overall TW is predicting business to decline between nine and twelve per cent over last season. But it did see a flurry of bookings in mid-November as the Book Early and Save promotions came to a close.
Douglas believes that the Peak 2 Peak Gondola and the variety of offerings and value of the resort will cushion Whistler somewhat from the economic woes plaguing the world.
“The ski enthusiast is still going to want to go skiing… and they are going to go and ski at the resort that offers the best value, and I think that Whistler is well positioned there,” he said.
Whistler also appeals to a wide demographic, with activities for the once-in-a-lifetime ski trip and the family visit.
The Pan Pacific is being aggressive, said Douglas, in its marketing to help offset the declining bookings. Its sales team spent a month in the U.K. in October to help secure destination bookings in the seven to 14 day range — an important segment to the Pan Pacific.
It is also allowing U.S. visitors to book and pay on line and lock in the exchange rate, which is about 20 per cent below what it was last year. And vacationers can get discounted rates the longer they stay.
“So now you have a 20 per cent improvement on the exchange plus an additional 20 per cent off, which I think is a very responsible program,” said Douglas.