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Tourism Whistler going after Japanese market

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Tourism Whistler has launched a Japanese Web site in the hopes of reversing the decline in Asian winter visitors.

And it hopes the site will help tour operators sell Whistler as a summer destination to the Japanese.

"We have experienced some challenges in the last few years," said Tourism Whistler’s president and CEO Suzanne Denbak, referring to the decline in Japanese visitors.

In January Tourism Whistler reported that the Japanese market was down 45 per cent over last year.

"The decline, broadly speaking, is just due to the health of the Asian economy," said Denbak.

"But we see segments to target for winter and we are very optimistic about growth in those segments and summer represents a significant opportunity."

The Japanese tourist is conservative and was adversely affected by the terrorist attack on America Sept. 11, 2001.

Still, the Japanese remain Whistler’s second largest overseas market, after the U.K.

Denbak, who has just returned from a sales mission to Japan and Hong Kong, believes the new Web site at www.tourismwhistler.jp , will give Asian visitors an opportunity to research the splendours of Whistler for themselves.

While most Japanese still choose to book through a travel agent the Web site will let them see what they are buying in a whole new way.

The site will also help to enhance Whistler’s image as Japanese-friendly.

"Whistler has always positioned itself as being Japanese-friendly," said Denbak.

"...We have Japanese signage, we have Japanese speaking staff, and ski and boarding instructors, so in terms of the tools we were offering our industry partners to help them sell Whistler the absence of a Japanese Web site was notable."

Denbak said Tourism Whistler has been working with Asian tour operators for the last five years to promote summer visits and their efforts are starting to pay off.

She is hopeful the Web site will raise Whistler’s profile as a summer destination even more.

It will offer information about accommodations, transportation, winter and summer activities, including the four championship golf courses, alpine hiking, sightseeing, skiing/snowboarding, family activities, shopping, dining and festivals.

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