Tourism Whistler prepares for challenges 

Faced with funding cuts marketing organization restructures

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Tourism Whistler is looking to the future and it sees reductions and challenges.

"Looking to the future, funding is certainly going to be a challenge when you see reductions in corporate sponsorship, when you see reductions in tourism funding, when you see reductions in general revenues," said TW's president and CEO, Barrett Fisher.

"Those are all things that certainly cause challenges and so...we're looking at how we grow our reach and frequency, our marketing exposure and profile in ways that are not necessarily financially driven."

The marketing association has just released its annual report and will host its yearly meeting of members next week.

According to Fisher, the goal of strengthening partnerships is partly behind the creation of a new position focusing outward and attracting events to Whistler along with big corporate partners who can promote the resort through big media.

"It is really looking at partnerships," she said.

Breton Murphy, the former senior manager of communications at TW, is going to be primarily responsible for finding partners to help TW deal with the reductions Fisher referred to.

Murphy's new title is Director of Partnerships and Events. He is responsible for forging external relationships with key corporate and industry partners to secure event, marketing and communications partnership opportunities.

"Rather than a reactive, it is a proactive focus," Fisher said of the new role for Murphy. "For example, if we're going after a signature golf event he might be meeting with a corporate partner, a sponsor who is responsible for that or he might be working with another corporate partner on a large promotion or contest, or he might be going after a large reality show or broadcast opportunity that we might have targeted."

The annual report published by TW indicates the hotel occupancy rate averaged out over all 12 months in 2011 was 49 per cent.

Louise Walker, TW's vice president of marketing strategy, said there were months in 2011 when the occupancy was much higher than the average.

"As a resort we do tend to talk about 60 per cent as a goal for where we would like to get to," said Walker.

She pointed out that in February of last year the occupancy rate was 66 per cent while in July 63 per cent of the resort rooms were occupied and in August the percentage bumped up to 64 per cent.

"The months of May and October pull us down," Walker said.

The chair of TW, Roger Soane, wrote in his contribution to the annual report that room night recovery took place in 2011 but the bottom line didn't.

"So while the resort did enjoy a boost in the number of visitors in 2011, this did not translate into significant economic gains," Soane wrote.

The annual TW report is available for members to see at the organization's web site and it features highlights from each department.

The annual meeting scheduled for Thursday, May 17 will expand on the contents of the report. That meeting is set to start at 2 p.m. in the Whistler Conference Centre and all members are welcome to attend.

The meeting will be the first significant TW meeting in which a number of TW staff members will attend sporting new titles in new positions.

In addition to Breton Murphy's new position, James Buttenshaw was named last week to the position of Research Manager.

Patricia Westerholm has been elevated to Manager of Corporate Communications from a specialist position, and Shawna Lang is now Director of Market Development, overseeing the travel trade and travel media teams.

Former employee Cassandra Zerebeski was hired back as the Senior Manager of Conference Sales.


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