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Tourism Whistler AGM talks growth and strategy

More visitors, destination markets emphasis ‘starting to pay off’

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Around 100 members attended Tourism Whistler's annual general meeting on Friday, May 17, to elect a new board and hear how the resort did in 2011.

Winter room occupancy nights grew by 18 per cent in 2011, compared with 2010, but to put this in context that's one per cent higher than in 2001.

The agency's chairman-of-the-board Roger Soane thanked his board for their good discussions and for meeting the challenges of the season. He said they knew 2011 would be a tough year following on the heels of the 2010 Winter Olympics, but that the post-Games focus of "winning back the destination market... was starting to pay off." He also alluded to the economic recovery worldwide and the impact it had on the resort.

"As we start to come out of this recovery, I do caution everybody that it's still going to take some time," Soane added.

Tourism Whistler's president and CEO Barrett Fisher told members that the 2011 priority shifts included moving more from traditional media to social media, moving from brochures to digital content, concentrating on growing the destination market, moving from tactical advertising to brand image, and from event production to event solicitation and marketing.

Members also took part in electing new members to Tourism Whistler's Board of Directors.

Soane was acclaimed director of multi-managed lodging - other, and Norman Mastalir was acclaimed director for single managed lodging - large. In the vote for the other two positions on the board, Jim Allard became director for multi-managed lodging - Village, and Tony Cary-Barnard becomes director-at-large, defeating Stephen Webb and Annique Aird, respectively.

The Whistler Sabbatical Project, with Briton Luke Dillon staying at the resort for a month, was declared a significant success, with over 20,000 individual entries and over four million Facebook impressions of the project's page. Tourism Whistler's Facebook page itself gain over 11,000 new fans in 2011, and the website Whistler.com had over 1.98 million visits.

In terms of visibility on television, among many other opportunities, the appearance of Bearfoot Bistro's sous chef Jimmy Stewart on Top Chef was worth $3.2 million in advertising value, an appearance of Whistler on Travel Channel China was worth over $2 million.

Louise Walker, the vice president of marketing at Tourism Whistler, gave the final presentation, a look at the strategy for the coming summer season - called "The Art of Summer" - which has the aim of increasing "top-of-mind awareness of Whistler as a summer destination" with the hoping shifting perceptions of visiting the resort from day trip to getaways to destination vacations to increase overnight visits.

Activities emphasized in upcoming advertising and marketing campaigns will include mountain biking, golf, and cultural events at the resort such as concerts and art.

Along with a strategic advertising campaign, emphasizing quality of the experience (mountain biking), and the affordability (golf), the deals found on booking websites like Expedia will include offers like free third nights in Whistler accommodations.

Tourism Whistler members will also be able to access a "Member Toolbox" for the summer season with ideas "to engage and involve you in the whole process" of The Art of Summer program, Walker said.

For more information go to www.piquenewsmagazine.com, or pick up the Pique next Thursday.

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