Hotel bookings down for July 

But Tourism Whistler and hotels forecast a strong August

Fewer people have booked hotel rooms in Whistler this July compared to the last two years, according to the latest figures from Tourism Whistler.

The 120-day outlook is also down about 8 per cent compared to the last two years.

But Jeff McDonald of Tourism Whistler said even though bookings are not strong for July, travellers in general are also making their hotel reservations more last minute than previous years. This week alone, bookings for July increased eight per cent.

"Bookings for July are pacing behind the last two years, but we have seen an eight per cent increase over the past week, which is consistent with what we have seen since economic conditions became difficult last year," said McDonald. "People are making their travel decisions quite late."

McDonald said he did not know what percentage of visitors are making late travel plans this year, but the number definitely appears to be higher than previous years.

He also pointed out that while the 120-day projection is down compared to the last two years, bookings for the month of August are actually eight per cent higher this year than both 2008 and 2007.

The reason that more people are planning to trek to town for August this year than for July, said McDonald, may have something to do with the large number of events taking place in the Whistler area during the late summer, including Crankworx, the World Police and Fire Games, the Slow Food Cycle, the 5 Peaks Trail Running race, and the Mountain West Music Festival.

And even though bookings for this July are down as a whole, visitations to the resort municipality on this July 4 th weekend are actually up compared to previous years. As of Tuesday, bookings for this weekend were 13 per cent higher than the same period in 2008 and eight per cent higher than 2007.

"The date (the July 4 th holiday) lands on often has a big impact on what American travellers decide to do," said McDonald. "However, I would also say that aggressive pricing and value packages are key in the decisions they make. Also, the Canadian dollar is weaker than the American dollar, so there is value there for American visitors."

Bookings for September and October, however, are also pacing behind the last two years.

Over at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, Victoria Dyson said reservations are showing a similar pattern to Tourism Whistler's statistics.

"July is a little softer than last year, however we have more leisure travelers coming versus corporate group travellers," said the director of sales and marketing. "August is a different story where we are doing better than we were doing last August."

Dyson said July is about two per cent behind last year but August is five per cent up.

The weather this summer, she speculated, will be the deciding factor with lots of last minute bookers considering coming up to Whistler.

"On a sunny weekend, we could even be picking up 50 rooms that day for arrival that night," she said. "Weather is just playing a huge factor. If it is sunny, people are picking up the phone and booking. If it is rainy, they are not picking up the phone. The magic combo this summer is all about sunshine."

Andrew Glass from the Hilton Whistler Resort and Spa also reported that guests are making reservations with his hotel very last minute.

"(Reservations for July are) below where we would like them to be and where history has told us we should be, but we are hopeful that we do get some last minute bookings and it starts to fill up as the sun shines," said Glass.

"Typically, skiers would book further out for their ski trip. A summer vacation traveller for this market tends to be a bit more rubber tire traffic... And they tend to book more last minute."

Bookings at the Hilton so far for this July are also looking "soft," said Glass. But business in August is up compared to last year, with some "strong groups" coming to the hotel.


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