Tourism Whistler's strategy for the coming ski season is to show the real experiences of real visitors through one of the hottest new social media waves of the last year – Instagram.
The free photo-sharing and social network was at the centre of Tourism Whistler's fall all-member meeting at the Whistler Conference Centre on Oct. 2.
Instagram will be used as the centre of Tourism Whistler's winter marketing campaign #WhistlerUnfiltered, which was created with Origin Design. Visitors to the resort are invited to visit the micro-website set up for the season (http://unfiltered.whistler.com/) and add their images to various categories, or share images through social media.
The aim is for a collection of unofficial, uncensored, candid shots of Whistler in all its glory through the lives of real people.
The categories include Anticipation (the journey), Rooftop of the World (the beauty of the alpine), Dropping in (the experience on the slopes), Snow play (skating, sledding and more), and Boots off (Après). Focusing on the enjoyment of the Whistler experience aims to make the resort a top-of-mind experience for potential visitors, and build an emotional relationship.
"We love to talk about our experiences and share them on a variety of online platforms... there is more and more consumer-generated content about brands," said TW marketing strategist Kirsten Omeniuk.
Instagram is owned by Facebook and has tens of millions of users, and it is hoped that sharing of images and conversations about Whistler's brand will latch onto the opportunity to bring a fresh, authentic view through visitor-generated content.
Those going to #WhistlerUnfiltered will be able to click on an image for information on the event. Contributors and local businesses are encouraged to participate by offering useful local information and even deals to the photographer. Around 1,000 images are currently being sought from last season, though hundreds are already posted.
"It's different... people are looking for authenticity. They are looking for human approaches to Whistler," said Barrett Fisher, president and CEO of Tourism Whistler. "We are really wanting to show our true side... spoken through the eyes of our customers. We're really excited."
Earlier in the meeting, the summer season performance was reviewed and the upcoming winter season was previewed.
Final numbers for the summer of 2012 are expected to be up in terms of room nights booked, ranking it as one of Whistler's top two summers ever. August was particularly strong, with key festivals like Crankworx pushing the numbers up.
A resort business members at the meeting tweeted that Tourism Whistler was forecasting winter room nights to be down six per cent over 2011/2012 due to very high numbers last year, and economic uncertainty.
"This is an interim and preliminary forecast, it's not the target (number)," said Louise Walker, vice president of marketing strategy for Tourism Whistler.
"Tourism Whistler is still finalizing our room night forecast for 2012/2013. This number was shared with the members; it's not the final forecast and is in the context of a record-breaking year that represents an 11 per cent increase on 2010/2011, and is six per cent above the 10-year average."
In particular, the pre-Christmas week is expected to be more challenging in December 2012 as last year there was a full week of school holidays prior to the Christmas weekend. Bookings for the holiday period were considered positive and ahead of numbers from last year.