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Christmas, New Year’s bookings surge at last minute

Good snow, good prices drawing visitors from Lower Mainland and Washington

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It could be a merry Christmas for Whistler after all, with a surge of last-minute travel bookings in recent weeks.

According to Louise Walker, manager of research at Tourism Whistler, hotels are still tracking about 10 per cent behind Christmas of 2008, which was also down compared to the previous year.

However, the rate of pickup has accelerated recently.

"Tourism Whistler and others have been doing quite a lot of marketing," Walker said. "Some media spots in newspapers have gone out and we've seen quite a lot of pickup in the last couple of weeks.

"There are really two messages. One is going out about Christmas and selling the dream of Christmas in Whistler, and the other is about snow."

Walker says that weekly pickup is actually up seven per cent week to week. Compared to the previous two years, that's more than double the pickup rate.

"Usually it's about two or three per cent from week to week, but we never see a seven per cent increase and all the days are up seven, eight, nine per cent."

Walker says the trend of visitors booking closer to vacation dates is still the reality for accommodation operators, as people book weeks and sometimes even days out instead of months ahead as in the past.

The recent snowy weather should help with that trend, as well as the fact that both Christmas and New Year's create long weekends.

"Certainly the snow is working in our favour," she said. "We have good snow, good marketing, good prices. Everybody is working to make things as good as we can."

One of the newest hotels in town, the Aava Whistler, is seeing a lot of pickup recently.

"Definitely a new booking energy in the past few weeks - we are seeing a sudden pickup during the holiday season and January as well," wrote general manager Colin Hedderson. "Aversion to the aversion I say. What a great year - fantastic snow, international athletes and guests, surrounded by the buzz at the Olympics. Not to mention the great rate value at the village properties. The perfect combination for a winter visit."

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler is reporting a huge surge in the number of last minute calls.

"I knew the phones were ringing but I didn't realize how much," said spokeswoman Lynn Gervais. "The last 10 days we booked 368 room nights between Dec. 22 and Dec. 31. Compared to the same period last year, we only picked up 46 in that time.

"Everything this year is so last minute. The snow in the winter is like the sun in the summer, it's white gold for us and the other hotels in the community. It's been really helpful."

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