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Making the little things add up

Up close with Doug Forseth, Whistler-Blackcomb's head of operations



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We do need to get that market back. We’re going to continue to work on the value story, that Whistler is an affordable destination.

Air travel is more expensive than ever, which is something we really have no control over, so we expect the value message — whether it’s bundling products and costs, or hotels and airfare — to hit home the hardest. We offer competitive rates with other ski areas, that’s a fact we have to drive home.

Pique: Are there any destination markets you will be focusing on more than others?

DF: There are three markets we will be doing most of our marketing. The first two are Washington state and California, which are in the same time zone as Whistler and can offer affordable rates to Vancouver by virtue of the fact we’re kind of in the same neighbourhood. That lowers air travel costs.

The other market is Central Canada, especially Ontario. It’s still a longer flight, but we have the same currency, and flights into Vancouver are still affordable.

We’ve been running national ads in The Globe and Mail, and so far we’ve had good response to our “book by” packages, which we expected to grow again this year.

Pique: Is there anything else you wanted to mention?

DF: Food. We’re looking at some new concepts in food, and in a way we’re going back to the basics this year. We’re dropping prices on 20 to 30 per cent of various menu items, which means we’re also reducing our margins there. It’s more expensive to provide food on the mountain because of the transportation and preparation, but people still compare the prices in the Roundhouse Lodge with the prices in the village.

We’re offering more value combination deals, where you get an entrée, drink and maybe a desert item for under $10. There are going to be more soups, more sandwiches, all high quality ingredients. We’re listening to our guests, and meeting their expectations and needs.

The test kitchen is the Roundhouse, and I think people are going to like what they find.