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Tourism Whistler sounds warning

Economic downturn expected to impact Whistler, but there are bright spots

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Tourism Whistler has booked a 30-second commercial that will be on Outdoor Life Network and other channels, magazine ads in the mainstream publications (partnering with Whistler-Blackcomb to promote Peak 2 Peak), and newspaper ads in targeted cities like Vancouver, Toronto, Los Angeles, and Sydney, Australia, as well as in Canada’s national newspapers.

Lyons talked about Whistler’s promotions for the coming season, including the Book Early and Save campaign that lets visitors save up to 35 per cent. The closing date for the promotion is Nov. 15, but if bookings are slow the date may be extended to Nov. 30.

Lyons also recommended that local accommodation providers form partnerships with groups offering last minute deals and promotions, which present an opportunity for high-end hotels to offer lower rates while protecting their brands.

As well, she said that agents should focus on value, as well as the big mountain experience, the new Peak 2 Peak Gondola, the favourable exchange rates for American visitors, lower gas prices, and the family holiday experience.

She also identified some obstacles to Whistler travel. For one, she recommended that some hotels change their deposit and cancellation policy to allow last minute cancellations. “It’s better to book them and to take the risk than it is not to book them in at all (because they’re scared of losing their deposit),” she said.

She also advised accommodation partners to look at their minimum length of stay requirements. Hotels should still protect their weekends, she said, but accommodation providers should also be flexible for mid-week bookings.

As well, she advised hotels to look closely at their pricing from day to day, and urged them to try and be consistent. “It’s confusing customers who don’t understand why there’s a price change from Tuesday to Thursday,” she said.

She also urged the food and beverage industry, and retail industry, to get involved with packages. One area where Whistler comes up short compared to sun resorts and winter destinations in Europe is that we don’t have an all-inclusive option for lower income travellers.

Goodwin futher recommended that Whistler keep price parity with other ski resorts that are already lowering their prices in response to the economic crisis.

Fisher cautioned that Tourism Whistler’s forecast is based on older data, and that the economic crisis is still unfolding. “We don’t know what all the impacts are going to be,” she said. “But at the end of the day, I’d still rather be us than other resorts.”

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