Summer was fine, winter forecast looks good By Oona Woods Statistics presented by the Whistler Resort Association paint a healthy picture of the resort and the WRA’s marketing methods. The WRA held a breakfast meeting for rate payers on Friday, Nov. 20 to go over the summer’s statistics and present a forecast for the upcoming season. In a year where the number of rooms available for rent increased by 22 per cent with the addition of Cascade Lodge, Lost Lake Lodge and Summit Lodge the season end occupancy rate for paid rooms in Whistler was 43 per cent and reached as high as 63 per cent during the peak season in August. It seems that Washington and Lower Mainland visitors are here for a "getaway," while Albertan and other US visitors are here for family holidays. Sightseeing brings on the Californians, along with golf, and "Visiting friends and relatives" is the main reason people leave Ontario to come here. As well as being the youngest, with 43 per cent of visitors under 35, Ontario visitors also have the lowest income levels and are the most likely to stay with friends or relatives. Canadian visitors were up by 8 per cent with B.C. in the lead with over 150,000 room nights generated, Ontario came in second with a 2 per cent drop from last year. Alberta fell by 8 per cent but director of marketing Barrett Fisher pointed out that last year Alberta had risen by 50 per cent so the decline wasn’t significant. The US market was up by 50 per cent, with visitors from Washington up by 59 per cent. The European market was down from last summer although Arlene Schieven, manager of research, said that new markets, like the Netherlands and the Nordic countries, were showing new promise. Fisher said the WRA had not been focusing summer marketing efforts towards the UK, however they have just embarked on a partnership with travel agents Globespan, promoting a Lakes and Mountains summer focus. Fisher says they expect an increase in the statistics to follow their marketing attention. Unsurprisingly Asian markets were down, probably because of the financial crash. However Taiwan went from a slim 150 room nights to 1,150. This was an increase of 883 per cent. Fisher says this is due in part to a new partnership in Taiwan. Latin American markets are also growing, with 400 more units from Mexican visitors and 800 from Brazil. These demonstrate increases of 177 and 149 per cent respectively. Guest satisfaction interviews found that 98 per cent of visitors said that their expectations of the resort were met or exceeded. The highest ratings were attributed to the on-mountain experience, the variety of activities and the recreational amenities. The lowest ratings were given to arts and culture, parking and shopping. Looking forward to winter occupancy rates, the WRA is expecting a 9 per cent increase overall. They speculate that occupancy rates will be in the 56 to 57 per cent range on average, including a 74 per cent peak in February. Again the majority of visitors will be from B.C. with "Other US" and the UK second and third. Projections show the number of visitors to the resort by the end of the 1998/99 year will top 2 million. Winter visitors spend on average $380 per day compared to $225 for summer visitors.