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Ski season sets new room night record

Room nights were up despite mixed weather, as were room rates for the winter season
The numbers are up At its AGM, Tourism Whistler filed annual report that looked at records set during the 2013/2014 season. Photo by Paul Morrison/Whistler Blackcomb

The 2013/14 winter season is one for the record books, setting a new benchmark for Whistler as the busiest yet.

The winter season was up three per cent in room nights overall.

"All in all we were pleased with a very successful winter," said Barrett Fisher, president and CEO of Tourism Whistler.

The record comes despite the dismal snow conditions at the start of the season that had Whistler Blackcomb making more snow than it has ever made before — 265 millions gallons by early January — making up for the fact that the normal storm cycles that typically blast through Whistler in November and December never materialized.

And then everything changed. Mother Nature made up for her fickle start to the season and let it snow.

Tourism Whistler reacted quickly, ramping up its messaging by sending out "We've Got Snow" campaigns in January and February to the West Coast U.S. market, as well as the Canadian market.

"Frankly, the results paid off," said Fisher.

"While we had a strong start to the season, we definitely saw bookings trail right off consistent with when the snow was backing off, but then with that reinvestment of campaigns, when we actually look at the season as a whole, we're up three per cent this past winter despite some of the local and regional markets backing off. We would say that that reinvestment in those campaigns, at those strategic times in the January/February period to get the momentum going and to rekindle interest, definitely paid off.

"And that's why we saw an exceptional winter, in fact, the best on record."

Not only was there growth in room nights, but the hotels were also able to grow their Average Daily Rates, and there was a resurgence in the international markets.

Texas was also indentified as a new opportunity this season and was targeted with a pre-2014 campaign.

"When winter was said and done we actually saw growth out of the Texas market that surpassed the average," said Fisher.

Last week Tourism Whistler held its Annual General Meeting to update its members.

Among other things, TW's annual report shows there was an $890,000 surplus in its budget at the end of 2013.

In addition to savings in staffing and other areas, there were also increased revenues, specifically from the MRDT tax (Municipal Regional District Tax), which is the two per cent provincial tax collected through hotels.

In addition to the $1 million that comes from that fund via the municipality, TW also splits anything above that 50/50 with the municipality.

"We saw a really strong growth," added Fisher.

"That's a direct reflection on the success of our resort performance."

Another side of the business, the corporate and incentive markets are also seeing a strong rebound. TW's conference sales team achieved both revenue and room night targets for 2014 and beyond.

That growth is helping fill in those need periods between seasons and growing year-round occupancy, which hit 55 per cent in 2013. The goal remains 60 per cent.

Board elections were held at the AGM.

There were four positions up for grabs: incumbent Jim Allard was re-elected in the category of Multi-managed Lodging. Tony Cary-Barnard, general manager of the Westin Resort, who was the incumbent in the director at large category, was re-elected.

Norm Mastalir, managing director of the Fairmont, was elected by acclamation.

And Ian Lowe, general manager of the Crystal Lodge and Suites, was elected in the category of Multi-managed Lodging.

Chair of the board Saad Hasan thanked all candidates and made special mention of Roger Soane, former hotelier and now president and CEO of the Whistler Sport Legacies,

Hasan said: "I would also like to sincerely thank Roger Soane, who has served as a director and, for several years, as chair, and has provided valuable leadership over the many years of his service on the Tourism Whistler Board of Directors."