Facing tough year, Whistler looks at pricing 

Long haul U.S. market down by as much as 25 per cent

Room night stays from long haul U.S. visitors are down by as much as a quarter this season.

This is a trend that doesn't show signs of reversing any time soon.

"We recognize this is a tough economic year," said Barrett Fisher, president of Tourism Whistler.

"We're probably not going to see the bounce back until 2004-05 and so our strategy will be to make a greater investment and to work more aggressively in pushing the 04/05 winter season and focusing in the short term more on the regional markets."

Recognizing the decline in the long haul U.S. market, Tourism Whistler and other resort partners have embarked on an aggressive marketing campaign targeted at the regional market.

To date, the regional business has been up every month this season and overall has increased by 11 per cent.

"What we agreed upon is that the local and regional markets are really Whistler's bread and butter business and in fact, the loyalty from those markets has been exceptional," said Fisher.

Tourism Whistler traditionally has not focused its marketing in the regional sector, leaving that to Whistler-Blackcomb and the property management companies.

Tourism Whistler’s role instead has always been to drive destination business and that's where most of its marketing dollars have been invested in the past.

But research into the regional market showed that guests believed Whistler was out of their price range.

"I think there's a perception in the regional markets... that Whistler has become a world wide destination and as a result... that we're out of reach and we're too expensive," said Fisher.

"With the awarding of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games that's probably only exacerbated the perception.

"There are a number of visitors who don't know about the value offerings that we do offer in the regional markets and so this is where we believe we had to do a better job of communicating, that we do in fact offer value to the regional markets."

Among the Tourism Whistler campaigns this season is the Reconnect With Whistler deal, offering room rates starting from $89 per person, per night based on double occupancy. The deal is valid for any B.C. or Washington State visitor and lasts until the end of March.

Traditionally, in high season rooms can start at between $300 and $400 per night.

"What we're trying to do is balance some of those high season rates with a more value oriented offering," said Fisher.

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