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TW AGM talks growth, strategy

More visitors, destination markets emphasis 'starting to pay off'



Tourism Whistler wants day-trippers to park their cars and stay overnight, and plans to target these visitors in its new "The Art of Summer" marketing campaign.

Louise Walker, vice president of marketing at the organization, said they expected a 1.4 per cent increase in room nights compared with the summer of 2011. In particular, British Columbia, Washington State, Ontario and California markets will be targeted with golf, mountain biking, and events such as concerts and art being the specific niches to be promoted.

Introducing The Art of Summer, Walker said it was aimed at increasing "top-of-mind awareness of Whistler as a summer destination" with the hope of shifting perceptions of what the resort offers. It's not just a great place to spend the day it is a destination — the hope is that this will translate into increased overnight visits.

"We also have specific direction to increase repeat visits and also target the markets of biking, golf and events. Direct mail will also be used to help generate repeat visits from the Tourism Whistler database," Walker said in an emailed response to questions.

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.

In terms of the 2011-2012 winter season, Tourism Whistler members heard at the annual AGM last week — where the summer campaign was unveiled — that room occupancy nights grew by 18 per cent when compared with 2010-2011 — but to put this in context the 2012 numbers are just one per cent higher than 2000-2001, the previous record year.

The agency's chairman-of-the-board Roger Soane said it was recognized that 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.

Michael Brisbois, general manager of The Keg and the chairman of the board for the Restaurant Association of Whistler, spoke of his concerns for his sector after the AGM.

"They don't really have all the answers for us, and if everyone had a crystal ball that would be fantastic," he said in an interview Tuesday.

"The venue is more of an opportunity for members to express concerns and give the board our feedback."

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