By Alison Taylor
Whistler-Blackcomb is trying to entice the Lower Mainland’s Chinese community to the resort with promotions over this weekend’s Chinese New Year.
In addition to targeted advertising through Chinese specific media outlets, such as Channel M, Fairchild Radio and the newspapers Mingpao and Sing Tao, Whistler-Blackcomb representatives will be at a sports store in the Aberdeen Mall in Richmond to promote the resort.
Mandarin-speaking ski instructors will be on hand and shoppers in the predominantly Chinese mall will be encouraged to spin a big lucky draw wheel for prizes.
“It’s a fairly grassroots promotion,” said Christina Moore, public relations and communications manager for Whistler-Blackcomb. “It’s really only our second year of reaching out to this market so we’re still learning and researching and figuring out what the best ways to communicate with them are.”
The promotion is part of an overall outreach to the Chinese community, particularly the youth, which is gathering steam. Moore said there is a huge population in the Lower Mainland that Whistler-Blackcomb has not reached through traditional mainstream marketing channels. They want to change that.
“Some of the feedback we’ve heard is: ‘we just want to be invited,’” said Moore.
“When we’ve done mass marketing in Vancouver you think we’re getting to everybody but we’re not providing personal invitations to the Chinese community… And this is what we are trying to do. We’re trying to give them a further connection with the resort and simply invite them,” said Moore.
Because Whistler-Blackcomb and Tourism Whistler coordinate their marketing efforts, the Chinese community in the Lower Mainland is not a target market for Tourism Whistler, confirmed Tourism Whistler’s Ian Dunn, and they have not put any marketing dollars into this market.
Last year Whistler put on a host of activities and events around Chinese New Year, which fell over the last weekend in January. That was the first time the resort, led by Tourism Whistler and Whistler-Blackcomb, officially marked the occasion.
There were traditional Chinese dragons in the village and the mountains, martial arts masters showcasing their skills, and calligraphy artists and musicians.
Those festivities will not be taking place this year.
Tourism Whistler has stepped back from organizing village animation programs, focusing instead on its core job of driving room nights to the resort.
The Resort Municipality of Whistler has taken a lead role in village animation but with a limited budget, most of it will take place throughout summer weekends as a way of adding value to the resort experience and encouraging repeat visits.
“If we discover that we have residual funds or we augment those funds in some way, then we’ll deploy them against animation at other times of year and obviously Chinese New Year would be a viable candidate for that, but not this year,” said John Rae, the RMOW’s manager of strategic alliances and marketing.
Moore added that Whistler-Blackcomb’s research through feedback from the Asian community shows that Chinese New Year has become much more commercial and it’s really about spending time with family and following traditional customs.
Rather than spend money on things such as colourful dragons, Whistler-Blackcomb is targeting its marketing dollars through an advertising campaign to get the Chinese community here. And it’s not just over the Chinese New Year, which falls on Feb. 18.
“Rather than just focus on the holiday, the Chinese New Year celebration, we are developing a strategy that reaches out to the Asian market in the Lower Mainland and we have further extended the campaign through January and February,” said Moore.
Whistler-Blackcomb has also been updating its video and photography libraries to try to represent a more diverse ski crowd.
“Another focus of ours is in our advertising, in our photography to represent a more ethnically diverse group of skiers,” said Moore.
Their research shows that this target market is made up of fairly new skiers.
“We have identified that the most eager group to convert to new skiers/snowboarders are the Vancouver Asian youth, particularly the Mandarin and Cantonese speaking youth,” said Moore.
In January, Whistler-Blackcomb targeted the Chinese community with its learn to ski packages through the Discover Whistler Days program where lessons are as much as 40 per cent discounted.
“We believe that it’s a fairly new market to skiing and snowboarding so our goal is to make it easy, accessible and affordable in order to capture their interest,” said Moore. “And once they’re up here we’re focused on giving them the best possible beginner experience and try to convert them into lifers!”