News » Whistler

'People are going to think twice'



Fallout from Sept. 11 already affecting local businesses

By Clare Ogilivie

Businesses in Whistler are reeling from the impact of the terrorist attack last week in the U.S.

"It’s had a big effect," said Shawn Wilson of Whistler ATV tours.

The company lost bookings for nine tours and expects to lose up to $60,000 in revenue this month.

"We’ll be lucky to do 10 per cent of what we normally do this month," said Wilson.

"Everybody has been laid off. We’ve pretty well just shut down early."

At this time of year 90 per cent of the backcountry adventure company’s business comes from large tour groups visiting Whistler.

When the skies closed over North America last week, an aviation first, none of those tour groups could get here. Even tour groups coming from Washington state by car have cancelled said Wilson.

He is hoping that holidayers still travel during the winter season or businesses may face a domino effect.

"I just think that this Christmas people might want to stay close to home," said Wilson. "But we need a good kick-off then to have a successful season."

Whistler Outdoor Experience’s marketing director, Grant Lamont, is just thankful the attack didn’t happen a month earlier.

"This is a slow time for us anyway," he said. "If it had happened in August it would have been devastating."

Lamont said the company is re-evaluating its marketing plan and looking at targeting the Pacific Northwest for the winter season.

"There is no doubt this is going to impact the resort incredibly," he said.

It’s not just people’s reluctance to get on a plane which may keep them at home. Extra security measures, while welcomed by most, will also mean long delays in flying times and border crossings.

More than a week after four U.S. commercial planes were transformed into flying bombs border crossings by car were still taking three hours longer than before the attack.

Lamont also believes Whistler will have to reassure visitors.

"As a tourist destination we are going to have to ensure that our guests feel safe here," he said.

That’s not something Whistler Mayor Hugh O’Reilly has spent much time worrying about.

"I think we have to have some collective discussions about this," he said.

"If we say we are looking safe how do we demonstrate that we are? I don’t know that we are there at this point."

Having only two ways in and out of the resort helps, said O’Reilly, as does Whistler’s reputation as a safe destination.