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Intrawest restructures non-real estate holdings, prepares for growth

Smythe co-leader of new Leisure and Travel Group



Intrawest is poised to make a major move in the tourism industry after this week announcing a wholesale restructuring of all its non-real estate entities into a new Leisure and Travel Group.

"There are huge opportunities when we do that to leverage the organization, to get the synergies out of that," said Hugh Smythe, who becomes co-president and chief operating officer of the Leisure and Travel Group.

"What has happened… (after Intrawest’s resort acquisitions of the ’90s) is we’ve got a lot of independent operations, and that has worked extremely well," said Smythe.

"But the leisure environment that we operate in since Sept. 11, and probably even just a little before that… has changed. And quite frankly, out there, it’s just a different leisure and travel world, so to speak. There’s a lot of capacity out there. Our competition, specifically Whistler-Blackcomb’s competition, is not just other mountains – it’s everything: cruise ships, and all of those kinds of things are out there.

"We need to really refocus on what that looks like in the new environment. There’s more golf courses, more resorts, more development in Vegas, more development in Orlando and there’s more all-inclusives in Mexico."

The new Leisure and Travel Group includes all of Intrawest’s mountain and warm-weather resorts, it’s 36 golf courses, lodging and central reservations businesses, retail and rental businesses and Club Intrawest.

The Leisure and Travel Group – a temporary title – will be led jointly by Smythe and Dan Jarvis. Smythe was formerly president of Intrawest’s Resort Operations Group. He will continue to be based in Whistler but will be on the road a lot.

Jarvis will continue to work out of Vancouver. He was formerly Intrawest’s executive vice president and chief financial officer. His new titles are president and chief executive officer of the Leisure and Travel Group.

John Currie, who has been with Intrawest in a senior financial role for 15 years, takes on the position of acting chief financial officer, pending board review.

Intrawest President Joe Houssian calls the restructuring the biggest thing to happen to the company since it spun off its urban real estate in 1994 to concentrate on mountain resorts.

The Leisure and Travel Group’s operations will not be limited to existing Intrawest resorts. The restructuring is intended to take advantage of information technologies, direct marketing, e-commerce sites and other systems that have existed and are now being co-ordinated under the Intrawest umbrella.

"This is being done to have a platform for the next phase of growth," Smythe said.

"This is being done to grow the organization.