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Regional and local tourists keep Whistler busy



Room nights down as fewer conferences booked post Sept. 11

Summer business in Whistler was much like the winter season before it.

Regional visitors and tourists from across Canada and the West Coast of the US came in droves.

While most who had to take long haul flights stayed closer to home with friends and family.

"What we saw in the trends last winter are very much what we are seeing in the trends this summer," said Barrett Fisher, vice-president marketing and strategy and business development for Tourism Whistler.

"What we saw (last winter) were big results coming out of the Western US, out of Canada, and out of the B.C. regional market."

The resort did enjoy substantial visits from those in the UK and Mexico but tourists from Australia and many other overseas markets declined.

Fisher puts the decrease in visitors from Australia last winter down to poor timing in bookings. Tourists from that country generally book from October on for holidays in January. But the terrorists attack on the US Sept. 11 made many international travellers nervous and they chose to stay at home instead.

But it looks like Australians are already back in the saddle when it comes to international travel, as bookings for this coming winter season are strong so far said Fisher.

Another segment of the market strongly affected by the terrorist attacks were conference bookings.

Many are booked a year or more ahead. The drop off in bookings after Sept. 11 has meant that Whistler hotels are down on room nights.

But local activity providers and retail outlets haven’t noticed the same decline thanks to strong numbers of regional visitors.

From May 1 to July 31 Tourism Whistler has found that:

• B.C. visitors are up 2 per cent;

• Visits from Alberta are up 144 per cent;

• Visits from Ontario are up 28 per cent;

• Visits from Washington State are up 38 per cent;

• Visits from Oregon are up 20 per cent;

• Visits from California are up 15 per cent.

One international destination bucking the trend for summer visits is Mexico.

"We are actually seeing growth out of Mexico year round now, whereas they were primarily a winter market," said Fisher

"I think what is happening is that the strong push that we have seen for winter bookings and the promotion of Whistler as a year-round destination is starting to come of age. It is starting to catch on.