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Flood-weary businesses looking forward to U.S. Thanksgiving



Visitors scramble to leave, staff stranded, supplies in short supply for a few days

Whistler businesses are focusing on the coming American Thanksgiving now that floodwaters are receding from the shores of Highway 99.

"We are relatively quiet until American Thanksgiving which is 30 days away," said Mike Duggan, general manager of the Pan Pacific and chair of Tourism B.C.

"That is what we are more concerned about, that the road is open, and we get the message out about early snow and go from there."

Highway closures and floods in nearby towns have certainly put a damper on resort business.

But most hotels and other operations are just glad it happened in the slow season and well before the American Thanksgiving which always packs the resort.

"I think it probably will affect us in the next seven to 10 days," said Duggan.

"I think people will be a little reluctant to get on the road until such time as they are assured that it’s back to normal.

"But I don’t think it will affect the long term at all."

Stranded guests at the Pan Pacific were offered complementary rooms until they could get back on the road again. The same offer was made all over town by various accommodation providers.

Even hotel staff stranded in Whistler got the same treatment.

"The (house cleaning staff) had arrived after the closure so they just moved into the hotel and we were able to continue on and I think they actually had a wonderful weekend and they were quite thrilled," said Duggan.

"Certainly Mother Nature has thrown everything she can at us this year."

It was the same situation over at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler said spokeswoman Sonja Hwang.

"We definitely had staff who were stranded staying here," she said.

Luckily conference goers at the Fairmont were able to get out of Whistler by air Sunday or were able to take the road when it re-opened intermittently Sunday evening.

"Because it is shoulder season the impact is much less," said Hwang.

"We are absolutely looking forward to the snow and the American Thanksgiving weekend."

Whistler Limousine owner Joel Wilson certainly hasn’t been in the driver’s seat during the last few days.

He managed to get about 150 clients out over the weekend on helicopters and floatplanes and the rest he carefully ferried down by road during intermittent openings.

But it’s been another blow to his business.

"The summer was an absolute killer with the business we lost," said Wilson. "We lost conference business with SARS, really it couldn’t have been worse. We couldn’t have anything worse happen to us in British Columbia."