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Tourism Whistler refocuses business plan for 2006

Driving and increasing room nights top agenda



By Clare Ogilvie

Tourism Whistler wants to increase room nights by 10 per cent next winter and boost summer room nights by 9 per cent.

And it hopes to achieve this by focusing on key markets, refining advertising, leveraging partnerships and funding, capitalizing on the exposure Whistler will get during the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, and driving home the message that the resort offers great value for money.

“It’s all about room nights,” Barrett Fisher, president of Tourism Whistler told close to 100 members at a meeting Wednesday to unveil the organization’s business plan for 2006.

“And that is where you are going to see the wealth of our focus because that is what we are here to do. We are here to drive room nights.

“Our belief is that a room night equates to the whole picture, so if you are here and staying overnight then you are engaging in activities on our mountains and in retail and restaurants.”

Fisher acknowledged that the 10 per cent target is aggressive.

“We know this number is aggressive but if we focus on an aggressive target then hopefully we will be successful in seeing some results,” she said.

The organization has decided to drop marketing to some regions, such as Taiwan, and focus on markets where there has been a strong response, such as B.C., Ontario, Washington State, California, the U.K., and Australia. Tourism Whistler will also focus to a lesser extent on Mexico, Japan and China. (There are 1.5 million people trying skiing every year in China.)

Research revealed at the meeting showed that B.C. summer room nights increased 12 per cent, with Ontario increasing 29 per cent. B.C. winter bookings to date are up 5 per cent, with Ontario increasing 57 per cent.

Travel to Canada from the U.S. is down 14 per cent since 2000, with U.S. bookings to Whistler declining 19 per cent over the same period.

Internationally, bookings from Mexico have increased 21 per cent from 2000 to 2005.

As part of the focus on room nights Tourism Whistler will be focusing on combating the resort’s negative image as far as access goes. Fisher said partnerships with airlines for “kids fly free” programs, getting out the message that the highway upgrade is helping, working to improve border crossing access and transit through YVR are all on the agenda in 2006.

The resort will also see themed events, such as Shakespeare in the Park, and big-name concerts coming in the summer to drive room nights. And focusing on golf and mountain biking will also be front and centre in marketing.

Tied into all of these threads will be the continued push of the Health and Wellness theme as the resort tries to capitalize on the desire of travellers to enjoy the spa experience.

The “Gay” and “Family” markets will also be important for Tourism Whistler this year, as will generating more group sales. The goal is to bring in 50,000 room nights and generate $2 million in group sales in 2006, according to the business plan.