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Winter marketing program refocused

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Survey indicates New York market ‘soft’

Tourism Whistler is refocusing its marketing plans after receiving survey results on how people feel about travelling as the war on terrorism continues.

There were plans to launch a large advertising and marketing plan in New York this fall but those plans have been shelved.

Instead the budget for that campaign has been switched to pay for more advertising in other markets.

"Our preliminary results that we got from the research indicate that travel intentions in the New York market are softer than other markets so we are shifting the marketing program that we originally had to instead focus on the B.C.-Washington regional market, the San Francisco-West Coast market, the Toronto market, the UK market, and Australia." said Barrett Fisher, vice-president marketing strategy and business development at Tourism Whistler.

The survey canvassed 700 skiers in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and Toronto.

It found that safety was the number one issue for travellers in the New York area while price was the most important factor for those booking a holiday from Toronto.

Of those surveyed 91 per cent said they were planning a holiday this winter, the majority of those within the U.S.

Only 22 per cent said they were planning to vacation in Canada. Of those planning a vacation in Canada most, 73 per cent, were from Toronto. Seattle was the next biggest market.

The survey also asked if people changed their vacation plans following the terrorist attack on the U.S. Sept. 11.

Not surprisingly 50 per cent said they had postponed booking their vacation, 23 per cent said they would be taking a shorter vacation and only 16 per cent said they had initially cancelled their trip.

A third of those surveyed said they were concerned about travelling by air. Those most concerned were from New York while those least worried were from Seattle.

Others findings included:

• 24 per cent were troubled at the prospect of crossing borders.

• 27 per cent were concerned with safety at the destination.

• 31 per cent said personal economics were a concern

• Only nine per cent said they would not travel this season.

• The number one reason to travel to Canada was the exchange rate followed closely by the quality of our natural environment.

Of the Americans who were surveyed, 80 per cent said price would influence them to chose a Canadian destination.

But the most important reasons for choosing Whistler were its pristine environment, the quality of snow, friendly atmosphere, the non-skiing activities on offer, safety, and the availability of non-stop flights.

What mattered most to New Yorkers was safety, while price was the only thing on the minds of Torontonians.

Those from San Francisco wanted value packages, and our neighbours in Washington State wanted good snow, good value, and family activities.

Only 15-20 per cent of comments from those surveyed in Washington State mentioned any concerns about the border.

"That was good news, and we needed this survey to clarify that," said Fisher.

"But at the end of the day research is only research and it is by no means iron clad."

So, while this information is leading the re-focus of Tourism Whistler’s marketing plans nothing is set in stone, said Fisher, and plans will change as the market does.

For now though the plan, shared with Tourism Whistler members Thursday, is to immediately blitz the Lower Mainland advertising the Winterstart festival and encouraging residents to not only come and ski but come and stay the night.

It’s the first time Whistler has marketed itself to this region in the winter and it may be a one shot deal said Fisher, as Whistler generally focuses on long haul markets.

Seattle, San Francisco, Australia, and the UK market will also immediately be targeted with advertising in major newspapers, online, by direct mail, and through other sources.

Come January, Portland will be targeted, and in February it’s Toronto’s turn.

Tourism Whistler is leaving Toronto until last as they plan to market April skiing, which offers the lowest prices for the best deals of the season, said Fisher.

There are also on-going discussions with airlines in the hopes of putting together package deals to entice travellers to choose Whistler.

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