Long weekend provides grounds for optimism 

Summer bookings strong in June and weather expected to provide relief

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Things are looking up. Although it was one of the coldest Canada Day/U.S. Independence Day long weekends in recent memory that didn't stop people from making the trip to Whistler.

The crowds in the village were a welcome sight for local businesses that have had to contend with highway construction, fluctuating exchange rates, a new passport requirement, the Olympic aversion affect and a cool, wet spring and start to summer.

Although Tourism Whistler won't have concrete room numbers available until next month, the evidence of a strong start to summer was all around this weekend with a busy Village Stroll, busy parks and busy trails.

Roger Soane, the general manager of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, confirmed strong bookings through the weekend and an occupancy rate of 94 per cent on Saturday night. The B.C. Bike Race, which wrapped up at Blackcomb Base on Saturday afternoon, helped boost the hotel's numbers.

"We had expected to be busy and were booked well in advance, which is a nice change these days," said Soane. "It's hard to say if it would have been as busy (without) the B.C. Bike Race, but walking around the village it seemed relatively busy."

Soane said business was slow in May and June, which he attributes to the weather. Looking ahead, the hotel's projections for July are down slightly when compared to 2009, which was a record year for the Chateau.

"It picked up so well last year, and I think to repeat that is a little too optimistic," he said.

However, with good weather and the trend of last minute bookings, Soane says anything is possible. The fact that Whistler is offering great deals on accommodation is helping, he says. But given that every resort has lowered prices as a result of the recession, the real advantage for Whistler is the value - the price and the quality of the experience, as well as the number of activities that are available.

In terms of the B.C. Bike Race, Soane - the chair of Tourism Whistler - says Whistler should strive to bring events and attractions to town every weekend.

"I'm a great believer for creating activities within the village and as a destination, and giving people more reason to come here," he said. "I think it will be a great opportunity when the Celebration Plaza opens next year to have some wonderful events there. From what I see it will be a great venue for outdoor concerts, outdoor shows, and a great series of events through the summer months utilizing that space.

"The B.C. Bike Race was a great event, good exposure for the resort, and international - people came from everywhere. We need to do more of that."

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