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Hotels continue to pack 'em in January stats support trend for big spring By Chris Woodall Double-digit increases in occupancy continue to make hoteliers happy. This time it's a 21 per cent increase in room nights generated in January over the same month a year ago. Whistler Resort Association predictions continue to be far behind what the hotels themselves are calling for, but at the end of the day, more people are coming to Whistler than ever before. The hotels had forecasted a 37 per cent hike in visitor nights for January, while the WRA were modestly calling for an 11 per cent rise. Hotels say they now expect a year-to-year 22 per cent boost for February, a 12 per cent climb in March and an 18 per cent ladder for April. But at the beginning of January they had been suggesting a year-to-year jump of 25 per cent for February, a 17 per cent hop for March, and a 26 per cent rocket for April. In either case, both sets of forecasts are more than decent numbers, even if they still result in lower total occupancy rates, due to a higher number of rooms available this year. The WRA is — like Margaret Thatcher — a lady not for turning. It still says February will have a 7 per cent year-to-year pip, but sell the same number of room nights in March, then dropping 4 per cent in April. The Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort is one of Whistler's hotels where the managers are wearing big grins. "We are showing large occupancy and revenue increases for this winter," says Bruce Weinberg, general manager. "November's revenue increased 21 per cent, December a whopping 33 per cent and January 11 per cent," Weinberg says. February is pegged to be a more modest 8-10 per cent, Weinberg says. "This is good news to Holiday Inn's strata unit owners, who receive a percentage of the total pooled room revenue generated." There doesn't seem to be a particular reason for the Holiday Inn's popularity this season, Weinberg says. An eastern tour operator has been generating new business, true, but Weinberg says his staff should get most of the credit. "They work hard and we've had very little turn-over," Weinberg says. "We hope to offer a great accommodation environment," he says. To keep staff motivated, Holiday Inn does what a lot of progressive companies do: hold staff events, offer internal incentives, keep training going and encourage staff to develop a career in the hotel industry. There are 2,200 Holiday Inns around the world, all of them franchised from the head office in Atlanta, Georgia.

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