Group business at core of October boost in room night numbers 

Whistler's slowest months gaining ground to make shorter shoulder seasons

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAVID BUZZARD/WWW.MEDIA-CENTRE.CA - tourism whistler September's UBCM convention accounted for 5,000 room nights this year. The convention, one of the biggest Whistler sees, will return in 2018.
  • Photo by David Buzzard/www.media-centre.ca
  • tourism whistler September's UBCM convention accounted for 5,000 room nights this year. The convention, one of the biggest Whistler sees, will return in 2018.

Group business accounted for one in three room nights in October this year, another factor tipping the scales to make summer 2014 (May to October) the busiest on record.

October room nights were up 14 per cent over last October and that makes October 2014 the busiest October on record.

"Good weather conditions in early October and the Thanksgiving holiday helped drive regional business while we also had significant group business with the Whistler Conference Centre hosting several large groups," said Tourism Whistler's communications manager Patricia Westerholm in an email.

She cautioned, however, that October is still a relatively small base of room nights, so even small changes could lead to the "seemingly large year-over-year percentage change."

October and November are Whistler's slowest months. October 2014 and November 2013 (the latest November results are not yet available) hover around the 30 per cent mark for occupancy.

Both months, however, are up over the 10-year average.

"The challenges with October and November have been that they are not core travel months for travellers in general, they are "in between" seasons... and some of our key activities aren't operational at that time..." said Westerholm.

"The opportunities for these months lies with group and event business."

It's one of the reasons why the municipality directed $40,000 in Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funding to pay for a study on the potential expansion of the Whistler Conference Cetnre.

Results of that study will not be available until January.

This year for example, the Whistler Conference Centre was host to several key pieces of group business — London Drugs, International Dairy Queen Inc, Canadian Association of Mutual Insurance and, the BC Lacrosse Association. This does not include any conferences or group business that may have been at some of the larger hotels.

In late September, too, the WCC saw one of the largest pieces of group business — the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.

The UBCM accounted for 5,000 room nights this year. Council announced last week that the convention would be retuning to Whistler in 2018.

Looking ahead, the winter is pacing on par with last year, which was again the busiest on record.

That being said, December is pacing slightly behind last year, the second busiest December on record.

"Bookings for the Christmas and New Year period are strong, pacing ahead of the last two years," said Westerholm.

"Our regional market is more heavily influenced by snow, so with the recent snowfall and more in the forecast, we will likely also see more visitation from the regional market."

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