BC Stats confirms Olympic room records 

Games period was unique, can't be compared to other months

It's official: the Olympics made for the busiest 10 days ever for Whistler's hotel industry.

According to Tourism Whistler, February was a "champion month," breaking records for room nights, occupancy rates and revenue.

It's no big surprise but according to a July 5 report from BC Stats, room revenue in February more than doubled compared to February 2009. Average price paid per room that month was $459.

Room occupancy was at 85 per cent in Whistler, compared to 76 per cent in 2009.

In Vancouver, room occupancy was 86 per cent compared to 65 per cent in February 2009.

Breton Murphy, spokesperson for Tourism Whistler, said their numbers differ from the numbers above because BC Stats only calculates for the month as a whole. He said during the Olympic Games, occupancy was at 97 per cent. Occupancy was at 75 per cent during the Paralympic Games in March.

Murphy said Games time was such a unique period that it can't, and shouldn't, be compared to other periods in Whistler's history.

"I think the more appropriate comparison would be, what would we do comparing the Games period, the busiest period we've had in the resort, over a month," he said. "That should be compared against what would be a typically very busy period, which is our Christmas period."

According to Tourism Whistler manager of research Louise Walker, Christmas week 2007 was the busiest the resort has seen since 2003. Hotel occupancy was 88 per cent, compared to 77 per cent during an average Christmas.

For the entire 2009-2010 winter season (November-April), room nights increased by six per cent, but Walker said this was boosted by the bustle throughout February.

She said that January suffered from Olympic aversion, where "visitors stayed away due to perceptions that the resort would be too expensive, busy or under construction." With the exception of February, the winter months have not returned occupancy and revenue rates the resort saw before the recession hit in 2008.

According to the BC Stats report, 97 per cent of all commuter traffic on the public transit system in the Sea to Sky corridor was within Whistler itself. BC Stats also reported that 23 per cent more international visitors flocked to Canada via B.C.

Tourism Whistler figures, however, show that the number of international visitors to Whistler hotels was actually down during February, from 57 per cent in 2009 to 52 per cent in 2010.

Murphy said that Tourism Whistler doesn't track revenue, but based on client feedback, he said the impact during Games time was "well received" within the hotel industry.

"Moving forward, the goal has always been not about the short term revenue gain, it's really about the increase in awareness and how that will increase visitation over the long term."

He said that the legacies of the Games will be used as "leverage" to draw in more visitors to Whistler, but said there is no specific goal to try and replicate the numbers the Games pulled in.

According to the BC Stats report, which pulled data from Statistics Canada, Pannell Kerr Forster, Tourism Vancouver, Tourism Whistler, Translink, BC Ferries and Vancouver Airport Authority, the departure of tourists and athletes saw hotel room revenues fall almost 50 per cent in March.


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