Tourism Whistler is hosting a slew of travel-trade conferences this year, with a total of over 2,000 delegates visiting town this fall.
In fact, three travel-trade conferences are being held in Whistler over the next three months.
The Student and Youth Travel Association (SYTA) held their conference this past weekend, the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) will hold their conference in October, and Canada’s West Marketplace has a conference lined up for November.
Karen Goodwin, director of sales for Tourism Whistler, explained the conferences were planned partly due to logistics and partly due to the excitement surrounding the 2010 Olympics.
“It’s a good return on the investment to bring in tour operators to showcase the resort and host their conference,” said Goodwin, adding that the feedback from the SYTA conference was positive.
Many of the delegates at the SYTA conference commented that they decided to attend the student travel conference because it was being held in Whistler.
“This is the very first time that almost everyone has been in, not only British Columbia, but in Whistler. And the cool thing is, when the Olympics are here in two years, we will all be able to sit around the TV and say we were there,” said STYA president Greg Shipley.
Shipley added that there tends to be an increase in visitors following a conference like SYTA’s, because tour operators are excited about the area and therefore more interested in selling it.
According to Goodwin, student travel is not a market segment that Whistler has strongly targeted in the past.
“We are trying to learn more about, and learn to maximize some of our need periods with the hotels, because certainly student travel is quite price-sensitive. So we are trying to find that need period that works with the hotels,” she said.
Goodwin added it might take a little longer to see an increase in student travel in Whistler following the SYTA conference than it would for a market that already has a history of travel to Whistler.
“We do see more of an immediate impact with a proven market segment, versus this is a newer market segment for us, so we are going to have to work at it. But we are off to a great start with what we just did,” said Goodwin.
She added that next year, as part of a big travel-trade conference in Vancouver called Rendezvous, delegates will be coming up to Whistler for one day to see the Olympic venues.