By Vivian Moreau
One-third of Mexican visitors to Canada landed in B.C last year and booked up to 6,000 room nights in Whistler. And, according to Tourism Whistler’s Monica Leeck, this year in the two weeks surrounding Easter even more Mexicans will head to Whistler.
“Whistler is one of the few resorts in North America open that late in the season,” Leeck said.
With a 10 per cent jump in the last two years Mexico recently moved from number four to three, edging out Germany, in numbers of international travellers to Whistler.
“Which is pretty amazing considering there are 7 million skiers in Germany and, let’s be honest, Mexico is not a skiing country,” Leeck said.
Leeck said wealthy Mexican families book in advance and usually stay a week in Whistler, bringing more money to the resort than traditional short-stay visitors from Canada and the U.S.
Tourism B.C. representative Richard Lewis says Mexicans look for different experiences in Whistler.
“Unlike Americans who when they come for seven days will ski every day, Mexicans will ski a bit, but also enjoy shopping, dining, and pampering.”
Statistics Canada reported a 26 per cent rise in visitors from South America last year, most landing in Ontario.
But an increase three years ago in direct Central America flights to Vancouver, from twice a week to nine times a week with Mexicana Air, has meant a jump to almost 63,000 Mexican visitors to B.C.
Lengthy U.S. visa application times have also been a boon for Canada, sending Mexicans who used to frequent Colorado ski resorts further north.
Canadian friendliness doesn’t hurt either.
“Canadians and Mexicans have more in common in terms of sociability,” Lewis said. “When I work in Mexico everyone is so friendly, as are Canadians, wanting to make sure you enjoy yourself — we have a lot in common in that regard.”
Tourism B.C. will shortly hire another sales manager dedicated to the Mexican market, and Tourism Whistler’s Leeck said there are plenty of ways to welcome Mexico to Whistler next month for Samana Santa, the holy week leading up to Good Friday.
“Like writing welcome signs in Spanish for storefronts,” she said, “or realizing they might need a softer version of outdoor activities than what we’re used to.”
Whistler tour organizer Jody Wilson said the holiday greeting Felices Pascuas, or Happy Easter, is only used after Easter Monday.