Visitor numbers for Whistler were both promising and discouraging this past winter, but summer numbers are on the upswing, according to recent percentages released by Tourism Whistler this week.
May 2006 saw the highest number of room nights ever sold for this month representing a 19 per cent increase in room nights sold for May compared to last year. Much of this growth was due to an increase in group business for May which increased more than 30 per cent compared to last year.
Room night bookings this summer season are forecasted to increase 7 per cent compared to 2005, with much of this growth being driven by an expected increase in group business from May through August. The IMBA Summit and World Mountain Bike Conference, which brought more than 400 delegates to Whistler from June 20-23, is one example of the resort's success in securing summer group business.
This past winter, overall room nights sold increased by 3 per cent, the first positive growth in winter bookings since the 2000-01 season. Most of the growth in the 2005-06 season occurred at the beginning and end of the season, with bookings increasing by 24 per cent in November and 23 per cent in April. Conversely, bookings for the core winter season (December to March) declined by 2 per cent with the most significant declines occurring in January (-6 per cent).
Regional visitors from B.C., Washington state and Alberta were up from 2004-05 season, 17 per cent for the former and more than double from Alberta. Visitors from parts of the U.S. other than the West Coast were down five per cent.
"Although Alberta represented only a small percentage of all bookings, the growth seen this winter season suggests this could be a market to watch in the future," Tourism Whistlers Breton Murphy said in a press release.
Tourism Whistlers community relations manager also speculated that poor snow conditions in Eastern Canada were a factor in a six per cent increase in Ontario visitors this past winter.
Tourism Whistler releases only percentages, but not hard numbers of room nights sold.