Tourism Whistler bullish on room nights 

Updated business plan focus on extending stays

Tourism Whistler’s focus on the hospitality industry in its new business plan is being well received in the community.

"I think it is very focused on what we are, we are in the hospitality business," said Paul Tormey, general manager of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, and a Tourism Whistler board member.

In previous business plans the focus has been on issues such as sustainability and the question of value, said Tormey. And while all are important to the resort and its overall success, shifting primary focus back to the drive to fill rooms is welcome.

"This (business plan) seemed to be, ‘look our industry in town is tourism’," said Tormey.

"It is our industry and this is what we need to do to make sure that industry is healthy and that is with respect to sustainability, that is with respect to growth, that is with respect to friendliness.

"In the business plan there is always going to be things that some like more than others, but I think the board of Tourism Whistler has worked closely together and hard to (address) as many of those things as possible."

The plan sets an aggressive target of increasing winter room nights by 10 per cent and summer room nights by 9 per cent.

Tormey describes room nights as "the currency of the resort."

"That is what it is all about: room nights, room nights, room nights. They create skiers, they create diners, they create sleigh rides. Room nights create restaurant covers, room nights create spas. It is the currency that we all deal in."

It’s hoped the drive to increase visitors will be helped by leveraging the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

Tormey believes the Games are a great event but the most important asset they bring is global recognition as millions of people and media turn their attention to Whistler at the end of the Torino 2006 Winter Games, which start this weekend.

"It is going to bring great recognition that you cannot buy," he said.

The TW business plan also looks at new areas for growth, including gay tourism, and the health and wellness sector, family travellers, and golf and mountain biking tourists.

Scott Carrell, of Affinity Sports, the largest independent equipment renter in Whistler, is encouraged by the plan’s inclusion of health and wellness as a growing market.

"I think it is a huge market and I think this town is about health and wellness," said, who is also on the Tourism Whistler board.

Research by TW has shown that 40 per cent of existing visitors have high interest in visiting a spa and 26 per cent of existing visitors would be positively influenced to visit the resort if Whistler developed more spa-specific packages and promotions.

Carrell pointed to the number of leaders in their fields in the sector, including personal trainers, dental health, physiotherapy, nutrition, spa, cosmetic and skin care. And, said Carrell, Whistler offers some of the most stunning backgrounds in which to embrace these "wellness opportunities."

"People don’t want to die," said Carrell. "They want to live longer…. The boomers, they have this wave as they move through society and really I think we have to refresh our product and I think wellness is a big component of that."

Even conferences could be sold with a wellness component, suggested Carrell.

"Certainly employers want their employees to be healthier so we could have a wellness program as part of their conference," he said.

"So now we have something more to sell than just the conference centre and just the location and its is something that fits with who we are.

"How many people are obese or overweight in the U.S. – 60 per cent of the population. So how big is that opportunity."


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