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Whistler-Blackcomb is also watching the situation, but so far does not see any cause for concern with the dollar at par.
If the Canadian dollar continues to gain value against the greenback, Whistler-Blackcomb is prepared to take American cash at par and will encourage other businesses to do the same — a reversal of a common American tactic to take Canadian money at par to encourage tourism.
Stuart Rempel, vice president of marketing, says Whistler-Blackcomb is concerned that the dollar could drive American visitors away or lure Canadian visitors to the U.S., but says the trends look positive.
“There’s still lots of work to do, but if early indicators can give us any sense of how busy we’re going to be then this winter looks good,” he said.
“As it is we’ve just enjoyed two record summers of business, and in between the second-best winter on record — not just from us, but overall for the resort. We’ve had really positive results from the U.S., which makes me believe that as a resort we’ve kind of bucked the trend in terms of visitation to Canada. Numbers were down everywhere else, but our numbers were up.”
Rempel says that success is based on a number of factors.
“The main thing is that Whistler as a resort and its partners that sell Whistler have been totally focused on value in recent years,” he said. “In terms of our product, we’re number one in North America. We have the new Symphony chair, unreal experiences on both mountains, modern lifts, and unmatched village with shops and restaurants and hotels. Even at par we continue to offer great value compared to other major ski resorts or destinations like Hawaii or Mexico.”
Regionally, Rempel says that Whistler-Blackcomb and its partners have made an effort to offer discounted rooms and lift ticket rates, using programs like the Edge Cards, discounted tickets at 7-Eleven, and the corporate sales program.
“We do have a tiered pricing system… targeted to people in regional markets, and I would say our pricing is comparable to, say, the Okanagan, without making the longer drive,” he said.
“We are concerned about the dollar, which is why we need to continue to offer great products and great service, at a great price.”
According to Rempel, early bird sales of season passes are about 15 per cent ahead of last year, which was a record for season passes sold. The early bird special ends on Oct. 8. There has also been a lot of interest in the Edge Card from around the region, and he expects to sell more Spirit Passes than ever this season.