Recovery from the declines seen in 2003 (-17 per cent over 2002) was not complete, as bookings remained seven per cent behind the levels seen in 2002. Most of the growth in room nights for the summer was a result of increased visits from long-haul markets, particularly destination U.S. markets. Room nights booked by long-haul markets were up 31 per cent compared to 2003, with the U.S. market accounting for 66 per cent of the increase.
Conference and group business was a major contributor to increased destination travelers in the summer of 2004. This segment saw a 35 per cent increase in room nights booked over 2003.
Statistics Canada has reported a rebound in tourism both from the U.S. and abroad during the second quarter this year, with the total number of visitors climbing 17.4 per cent compared with the same period last year. This gain reflects an increase compared to the spring of 2003, when foreign travel to Canada experienced its largest decline ever principally due to the SARS crisis and war in Iraq.
Looking toward the upcoming winter season (November 2004-April 2005), Tourism Whistler forecasts indicate Whistler will begin to recover from three consecutive seasons of decline. Recovery will be modest, however, with room nights expected to increase five to seven per cent compared to last winter season.
Central reservation services in Whistler are seeing increased bookings for the winter. There has been positive response from several campaigns, including early booking and family-focused package offers. Among the offers were: book by Oct. 31 and save 30 per cent; Kids fly, stay and ski for free with a three-, five-, or 10-night family package if booked by Dec. 5; and five- and 10-night Get Away and Play packages that included free return ground transportation.
Other value-added offers, such as Whistler-Blackcombs Edge Card, have also been very well received, Tourism Whistler reported. Sales of the card, which provides discounts on lift tickets to B.C. and Washington State residents, are up more than 60 per cent year to date compared to last year. Sales of season passes are also outperforming last years numbers.