Paid room nights were up 2.7 per cent compared to April 2003, bucking a trend that saw overall winter season visits decline 6.7 per cent over the rest of the season.
Tourism organizations are blaming the downward trend in the industry on the weak U.S. economy, disease and health scares, the war in Iraq, and a higher Canadian dollar.
Closer to home, Whistler has had to cope with floods, highway improvements and increased competition from other resorts. Our main destination market, U.S. travellers, was down the most significantly of all market segments.
Whistler did see some increased traffic from Canadian markets, however, with an increase in visits from Ontario and around B.C.
The weather was not a factor this winter, with a strong early start in November and a good snowpack remaining through the spring. Whistler Mountain will remain open until Sunday, June 6 and the Blackcomb Glacier will open for summer operations on June 7.
Conference business looking up
Although conference business experienced a major decline after 9/11, the situation is improving in recent weeks.
The newly renovated and redesigned Telus Conference Centre at Whistler has rebooked three of the groups that have used the facilities in the past six months, with an estimated economic impact of $4.9 million.
The return customers are the Keystone Symposia, a continuing medical education meeting, the B.C. Water and Waste Association, and the International Institute of Municipal Clerks.
Together these multi-day conferences represent approximately 18,500 delegate days and more than 10,000 room nights.
Tourism Whistler is currently working with Whistler-Blackcomb, the hotels, retailers, restaurants, activity operators and the RMOW to attract large association groups to Whistler in the coming years.
Zoom Airlines announces winter service
U.K.-based Zoom Airlines recently announced plans to operate a route from various U.K. airports to Vancouver this winter, landing three flights each week. That represents about 800 potential visitors to Whistler.
Zoom already lands three flights a week during the summer months.
Tourism Whistler and Zoom Airlines have a strong relationship after negotiating support for press visits and prize giveaways. In addition, Tourism Whistler placed an ad in the Zoom in-flight magazine.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines offering Whistler getaways
Alaska-bound cruise ships with the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line are now offering Whistler as a pre- and post-cruise destination for travellers, with overnight stays in the village and a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy. Tourism Whistler, Tourism Vancouver and the Canadian Tourism Commission are hosting two familiarization trips in June to showcase Whistler to reservation agents and sales managers from the cruise line.