9/11 attacks changed Whistler's business 

Decade of highs and lows mark the years in tourism since terrorist attacks


Just before the terrorist attacks on 9/11Tourism Whistler was gearing up to launch an advertising campaign on the east coast of the U.S.

It was to be one of the first big investments targeting long-haul travellers in the New York area. At the time, the U.S. accounted for 38 per cent of Whistler's business in the winter and 35 per cent in the summer - a critical piece of the tourism pie.

But when the World Trade Towers fell ten years ago, Tourism Whistler's plans, like so many others, vanished in an instant.

Travel would never be the same again and tourism in Whistler was about to take off on a rollercoaster ride that has defined the past decade with incredible highs, the 2010 Olympic Games, and sorrowful lows.

"This has been an absolutely fascinating decade of experience," said Tourism Whistler's president and CEO Barrett Fisher.

"9/11 definitely changed travel forever but when you look at the ups and downs, it's a complex recipe. There are multiple factors that have influenced tourism over the last decade."

The year before the attacks was Whistler's best on record - a banner year for room nights and skier visits. There was strong growth coming from the U.S., specifically in Washington State and California, but also stretching east through the mid-west and down the east coast.

Fisher had been back at her desk as vice president of marketing and sales for just one day after her maternity leave before the attacks.

Once the shock and the horror of what happened had finally registered, TW went to work to try to counter the short-term impacts of heightened security, and genuine fears of flying.

It pulled the east coast advertising and launched a campaign into California and Washington State featuring an American and Canadian flag with ski tracks linking the two countries.

"I think for us it was less about driving immediate bookings and more about showing empathy for our U.S. customers," said Fisher.

TW also worked closely with Whistler Blackcomb and other resort partners and that was key to its success in the year following 9/11 said Stuart Rempel, vice president of marketing and sales for Whistler Blackcomb.

"All the stakeholders in the resort just after 9/11 really worked hard to align what we felt was going to be important to drive business that winter," recalled Rempel. "And it worked. We saw a strong season."

That was due in no small part to the value of the dollar.

"Americans continued to come because they saw great value," said Rempel.


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