Cheaper accommodation will be one of the key marketing tools for Tourism Whistler as it works to book the resort in the years to come.
Less expensive room nights in Whistler was the silver lining in a tough economic year which saw room nights in hotel and other tourist accommodation drop by 6.5 per cent this season.
This decrease marks a roughly 14 per cent decrease in resort room nights over the past two years.
The accommodation sector responded by lowering room rates, on average, about six per cent.
Barrett Fisher, president of Tourism Whistler, sees the decreased room rates as a good thing for marketing the resort in the years to come, something that will ultimately drive more room nights.
"I think thats a positive thing," said Fisher, of the lower room rates.
She said its a great message to take to markets, promoting the fact that Whistler is good value for money. More importantly, it will increase volume to the resort.
The low prices will be a key factor in future marketing to the U.S., U.K. and Australia as Tourism Whistler pursues those markets with "aggressive offers." This includes attractive package deals, promotions and essentially getting good value for money.
"(The) strategy is to promote new low prices," she said,
The 2003-04 winter figures from Tourism Whistler come as no surprise to Fisher.
"(The) numbers fulfilled what we had anticipated," she said.
The numbers were up slightly in November, December and April but were down throughout the high season. Thats the time when the U.S. long-haul traveller traditionally comes to Whistler.
"We knew up front that the U.S. market was not planning to travel," she said.
This trend had already surfaced prior to this winter season, showing up last March and April due to the war in Iraq.
The trend was then exacerbated by the soft U.S. economy, the inclination to stay close to home and save money and the general threat of terrorism.
A trial marketing campaign in California did not have the return on investment that Tourism Whistler expected, and so they pulled out of marketing to the long haul markets south of the border for the 2003-04 season.
The Japanese market was down roughly 20 per cent this year. This market is very susceptible to any health and safety threats.
The German market also decreased but not as much as the market in Japan.
Though Tourism Whistler did not put significant resources into these markets, they continued to maintain their relationships in each area.
Primarily however, their efforts were focused on markets like the U.K., Mexico, Australia and the regional market.
The U.K. market remained flat for most of the season, declining slighting in April.
Fisher attributes that April decline to the lack of airline seats coming out of the U.K., which could not match the demand.
The Australian market was down slightly over the year.
But Mexico, Brazil and the regional market all experienced increases.
Fisher also pointed out that opening the newly renovated conference centre has been very positive for driving more room nights in the resort.
A number of long haul groups have booked, such as the National Brotherhood of Skiers who are returning in 2005.
All indications point to a resurgence of the U.S. long haul market.
Fisher said Tourism Whistler will go back to marketing in pockets in the U.S.
At the same time, she said theyve realized that the regional customers are the resorts "bread and butter."