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Whistler is hot summer destination for Japanese

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Asia-Pacific market is key focus for Tourism Whistler marketing programs

The increasing popularity of Whistler as an international destination is being credited, in part, for an overall increase in foreign visitors to the province.

The other main reason travellers are being lured by B.C. is the lower Canadian dollar compared to the U.S. currency which helped boost numbers coming from the States.

"Overall gains in entries into B.C. can be partly attributed to the increasing popularity of Whistler with international visitors," said Tourism B.C. in a release. The organization is reporting an increase of 5.3 per cent in international travel to the province for the first quarter of 2001, with a total of 834,787 overnight customs entries recorded for the first three months of this year.

"We’re enjoying a positive start to 2001," said Tourism B.C. chair Mike Duggan, who is also general manager of Whistler’s Pan Pacific Lodge. "It exceeds our overall expectations and we hope the trend continues through the year."

American visitors are responsible for the bulk of the growth. Overnight customs entries from the U.S. were up 5.1 per cent to a total of 605,725 travellers. This comes on top of a 1.4 per cent growth in 2000. The large size of the U.S market accounted for almost 75 per cent of all overnight entries to B.C. and contributed substantially to the positive overall growth for the quarter.

Although most of the growth is coming from the States, Japanese business has also been growing, with the number of visitors from that country increasing 3.9 per cent. It is this market that is being aggressively targeted by Tourism Whistler for summer.

Tourism Whistler reported a 26 per cent increase in summer room nights for 2000 over the summer of 1999, and over the last three years warm weather business from Japan has increased 48 per cent.

The reasons for this, according to Tourism Whistler, are improved air access and an aggressive Whistler marketing campaign that has resulted in an increase in the number Japanese tour programs being offered.

And while some Canadian destinations may be hurting from a reduction in domestic flights originating from Vancouver, Whistler is winning. Less flights from Vancouver to other parts of the country mean more Japanese travellers are staying in B.C.

Tourism Whistler has also been working in partnership with Air Canada to aggressively promote Whistler summer travel with key Japanese wholesalers in both the Kansai and Kanto regions. The result is two more companies – Nippon Express and Nippon Travel Agency – that have started unique Whistler summer campaigns for this year.

Other tour operators in Japan that now feature Whistler’s warm weather product are the Japan Travel Bureau (JTB) and Jalpak.

Three years ago JTB launched a high profile Whistler summer campaign which sparked increased interest in Canada. Working with Tourism Whistler, JTB’s Whistler campaign included Whistler brochure display stands, displays in JTB retail outlets, special training manuals for JTB staff and the production of a Whistler summer brochure.

Tourism Whistler reports that it is continuing to develop these summer programs and it will home in on changes within the Japanese market. The targets are now seniors and families. Nature, hiking and longer stay programs are being highlighted.

Tourism Whistler will also be showcasing all four seasons in the resort at the June 6 Tourism Whistler Marketplace 2001 for Asia-Pacific partners at the Hotel Vancouver.

In all, the Asia-Pacific region posted an increase of 7.3 per cent in visits to British Columbia for the first quarter of 2001. Along with the Japanese increase, South Korea gained 17.1 per cent and China 28.4 per cent. Taiwan and Hong Kong – B.C.’s third and fifth largest Asia-Pacific source countries – posted increases of 4,4 per cent and 5.8 per cent respectively.

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