Whistler catching attention of other resorts The site of last weekend's annual general meeting of the Whistler Resort Association said as much about the state of the resort as anything any of the directors or members offered. The meeting was held in the Myrtle Philip school gymnasium because the conference centre was booked. This September has been one of the busiest months ever for convention business in Whistler. Coming on the heels of a record 1.8 million skier visits last winter, another strong summer and the recent number one ratings in two American ski magazines, Whistler is now being closely watched by its competitors, WRA president David Thomson told approximately 35 members gathered for the meeting. "Vail has stagnant growth. They and others will be paying us much closer attention," Thomson announced. As well, European resorts are working hard to attract the Japanese skier market, which has long been loyal to Whistler. Thomson suggested Whistler must work harder than ever on making sure the resort runs smoothly. "We have to pay attention to (things like) employees and traffic flows," Thomson said. He highlighted two developments that are helping Whistler diversify into new markets: the Open Skies agreement between the United States and Canada and the creation of the Canadian Tourism Commission, which will make more than $6 million in co-operative marketing funds available this year. The WRA is working on a four-pronged marketing strategy for the 1995-96 seasons that will take advantage of Open Skies and co-operative programs. For the ski season a co-operative program through the federally-funded Tourism Association of Western and Northern Canada is planned to promote ski areas in B.C. and Alberta. The program will target some of the American cities with new direct flights to Vancouver and Calgary, including offering familiarization tours to tour operators, travel agents and media in those cities. A second ski marketing program, run under the new Canadian Tourism Commission's national umbrella, will promote some ski areas in Quebec, Banff/Lake Louise and Whistler in conjunction with cities such as Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal. For next spring, summer and fall, Tourism B.C. is proposing a broad marketing plan for the whole province in some of the markets opened up by Open Skies. The WRA also plans on participating in that program. The fourth component is a soft adventure program to promote summer in Whistler. It will be done in co-operation with some soft adventure companies and other travel destinations. At Saturday's meeting Barrett Fisher, director of marketing, presented figures for the past winter which showed, among other things, Brits contributed more room nights than Californians. The resort totalled approximately 350,000 hotel room nights last winter, and 265,000 this past summer. Financially, the WRA is expecting approximately $600,000 in increased revenue this year over 1994, contributing to a $7.5 million budget in 1995. The increased revenue comes from: new memberships (approx. $100,000), increases in green fees at the golf course (approx. $100,000), increased conference centre business (approx. $155,000) and increased commission from central reservations. The results of mail-in voting for three positions on the WRA board of directors saw Jim Allard elected to one of the hotel lodging director positions, Don Cochrane elected as commercial director and Sandra McKellar was acclaimed as the new non-hotel lodging director. They join Craig MacKenzie (non-hotel lodging), David Roberts (hotel lodging) and Laurie Vance (at large) as the elected directors for this year. Four-hundred-thirty-three ballots were cast in the mail-in vote, which auditors Doane Raymond said was "low compared to last year," when voting was done at the annual general meeting.