Mexican tourist visa hitting Whistler businesses 

Tourism Whistler stats show steady improvement in visitor numbers

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According to Hood, Whistler is losing business to other destinations because the approval of the visas is inconsistent, which is causing frustration in the marketplace.

The Canadian government has expressed no interest in reversing the requirement, though Sea to Sky Conservative MP John Weston said waiving it is possible in the future. Weston supported the original motion to implement the visas in 2009 based on the number of refugee claims from Mexicans in Canada.

"Once our government is convinced we won't once again awaken the flow of refuge claimants without substantiation then we would waive the requirement," he said. "I'm certainly conscious of the importance of tourism to the corridor and I have been in regular touch with Minister Jason Kenney (Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism) on this issue."

Representatives from other ski resorts in B.C. have indicated their tourism numbers weren't negatively affected by the visa requirement because they didn't have large numbers of Mexican tourists to lose. At Big White, Senior Vice-President Michael Ballingal said direct flights from Mexico to a nearby airport has helped keep what business they have steady, but that Mexico remains an insignificant market for the hill.

Sun Peaks Mountain Resort's President of Tourism Chris Nicolson said the same about his resort.

Information collected by Tourism Whistler indicates tourism numbers for this month are projecting ahead of the previous two years. Air Canada passenger loads on direct flights from Mexico to Vancouver are hovering at around 75 per cent - considered strong by industry standards.

"Our two biggest ski operators and specialists that work out of our market - one in Mexico and one in Canada - have been reporting that business has been steadily improving over the last couple of months and they're seeing slightly above the past year or two," continued Hood, who speculated that local businesses might see their sales improve once Mexican tourists are on the ground.

"One operator is reporting up to a 15 per cent increase and those numbers were specifically related to Whistler."

Overall, Easter is pacing down compared to previous years, though Tourism Whistler staff attributes this more to the time at which Easter 2011 falls.

"Easter 2011 is one of the latest Easter periods in recent memory, so that's why numbers are relatively lower," said Breton Murphy, senior manager of communications for TW.

"As is the case each April at the end of the winter season we see numbers decline from the beginning of the month to the end."

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