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This year marks the second consecutive year that overall numbers are down in the resort. And while Whistler is still busy, the 5.7 per cent reduction in the number of tourists has been noticeable. The challenge now is to turn the numbers around in an economic and social climate far different than in the communitys halcyon days.
A decade ago the Canadian economy was far softer. The national unemployment rate hovered around 9.5 per cent, the dollar was worth 73 cents US and NAFTA had just come into effect. The average single family dwelling in Whistler could be had for $380,000, while townhouses and condos averaged just a shade under $200,000.
While the American economy seemed stable under the first term leadership of President Bill Clinton, Japans was starting to face the long-term effects of the aftermath of a huge stock market bubble that would result in a deflationary spiral where slow economic growth could not prevent rising unemployment. But given the fact that Japans three major stock exchanges had all tripled before peaking, cutting back on such non-essentials as travel had not yet begun.
In the years before Osama bin Laden was a name every North American could pronounce, a mysterious respiratory illness had ravaged Toronto and the U.S. was at war with Iraq, the world was a very different place. And in a community built on tourism, it is impossible to ignore the economic impact of 9/11, SARS and the war on Iraq especially when 35 per cent of summer and 40 per cent of winter visitors are the increasingly cautious Americans.
But are economic and social factors the sole reason that the resort is experiencing a tourism fall off? And will Tourism Whistlers new branding approach be enough to turn the declining visitor numbers around?
A veterans view
Mario Enero, owner of La Rúa Restaurante, has a simple, though potentially unpopular theory as to why business isnt booming. Establishing himself in the community in 1982, the veteran Whistler restaurateur has witnessed the ebbs and flows of the market. The year Pique first hit the streets was a banner year for La Rúa. In Piques first feature Enero was quoted as saying:
"People are booking much farther ahead. We're not talking about weekends either; were talking about weekdays, that's a big plus. Ive never seen advance bookings like that in the 12 years that I've been here."
Reservations from the U.S. and Europe contributed to a 40 per cent increase in advance reservations the week La Rúa opened for the winter season in November 1994.
May 23, 2013, 5:02 AM
Locals frustrated by damage to village; police log 17 cases of mischief over one night More...
May 23, 2013, 5:01 AM
Task handed to EPI Committee for attention More...
May 23, 2013, 5:00 AM
Work to begin this summer in an effort to update hall, improve customer service More...