By Vivian Moreau
Record snowfalls helped boost occupancy rates for Whistler hoteliers this winter, with room bookings up over the previous year for some high-end hotels.
“We were holding our breath to see whether we would crack 90 per cent for the month of February — it was that close,” said Westin Resort and Spa’s general manager, Trevor Graham.
Graham attributed the influx of guests to not only the lack of snow in eastern North America, and Whistler’s 42 feet of snow this winter, but to a change in marketing direction. Graham said the hotel boosted its Internet marketing this year, increasing its presence substantially on expedia.ca and whistler.com.
“We maybe have not played as hard as we should in some of those vehicles,” Graham said. “This year we tried more aggressive things and coupled with the snow found them to be very successful.”
Hilton Whistler Resort experienced a similar increase in occupancy rates this winter over last, said general manager Pradeep Puri.
In addition to raising its awareness through the hotel’s honour program that gives breaks to returning guests, Puri said the record snowfall was a major factor in drawing first-time guests to the ski resort.
“People that normally go to Colorado or Vermont, told me that since there was no snow (in eastern U.S.) they thought they’d give Whistler a try.” Puri said. “One fellow from Florida told me normally he goes to Colorado but he came here for the first time and he will not be going back to Colorado again.”
Tourism Whistler said there was a 16 per cent increase in room nights booked in Whistler in February, over the previous year. In addition there was a 27 per increase in visitors from the U.S. over the same period.
Sales through whistler.com, Tourism Whistler’s accommodation call centre, increased 30 per cent this season over last, Whistler’s marketing arm said in a news release. Two events — Winterpride, Whistler’s gay ski week, and Mexican ski week — were instrumental in increased bookings, Tourism Whistler noted.
Spring campaigns will focus on promoting further events like Whistler Wellness Week, May 5-13 and will be supported with a Vancouver advertising campaign that is running now through May 10.
Westin’s general manager said April and May are also looking good for the hotel and although the seven-year-old, 419-room Westin expects to finish the spring quarter ahead of last year, he doesn’t attribute the boost in occupancy rates to Americans becoming more comfortable with venturing beyond their borders.
“I don’t think it’s a turn in the tide with them pushing aside border crossing or terrorism concerns,” he said. “I don’t see that right now.”