Accommodation sector concerned about next 18 months 

Tourism Whistler restructuring, trying to rebuild destination market in post-Olympic economy

Leveraging the Olympic exposure to boost occupancy levels and room rates was the theme at Tourism Whistler's annual general meeting last week.

"Whistler has suffered greatly as far as hotels are concerned, in daily rates and REVPAR (revenue per available room)," said Roger Soane, chair of Tourism Whistler.

And like many other tourist destinations, as the economy shrank the international market over the last two years, Whistler focused more on local and regional business.

That, combined with the Peak 2 Peak, led to great visitor numbers from British Columbia and Washington State last summer. In fact, room nights were up six per cent last summer and again this past winter.

However, room revenues were down substantially. And that has the accommodation sector very worried.

The influence and sense of urgency in the accommodation sector was reflected in the only election to the Tourism Whistler board this year, for the Director at Large. The final tally saw Trevor Graham, general manager of the Westin, defeat incumbent Dave Davenport 3,170 votes to 2,711.

Three other lodging directors were acclaimed: Stephen Webb in Multi-managed Village Lodging-Other; Jim Allard in Multi-managed Village Lodging; and Roger Soane in Single-managed Lodging-Large.

Saad Hasan remains as the director of Single-Managed Lodging-Small for another year, while Brenda Baker also has another year as director of Multi-managed Lodging-Benchlands.

Rick Clare, now the only elected director not representing the accommodation sector, has another year as Commercial Director.

In addressing the annual general meeting prior to the voting, Graham said he believed Tourism Whistler is at a crossroads. Key issues over the next 18 months will determine the long-term future of the organization, and Whistler's success as a resort.

The restructuring of Tourism Whistler to deal with the economic and market realities following the Olympics has already begun. President and CEO Barrett Fisher announced last month that Tourism Whistler had reduced its workforce by about 10 per cent and was directing the savings into marketing and sales.

Fisher she would also like to see the organization focus on destination marketing and leave the regional marketing to partners such as Whistler Blackcomb and the hotels.

But the organization may be further budget strains. Karen Playfair, director of corporate services, told the meeting that partnership funding, which includes sponsorship and government funding, is at risk in the post-Olympic economy.

Partnership funding currently makes up about 10 per cent of Tourism Whistler's revenues. Member fees and assessments account for 71 per cent of revenues.

Seventy-three per cent of funds go to marketing and sales. Administrative expenses declined annually from 2007 to 2009.



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