millennium accommodation 

By Loreth Beswetherick There is still room at the inn during the peak Millennium period — that is the message Tourism Whistler is sending out with a new multi-tiered marketing campaign targeting B.C. and Washington State. Bookings for the much touted peak period are on par, or even slightly down, compared to the same time last year. Tourism Whistler doesn’t yet have the figures at hand but they do know there are sill vacancies. "We don’t yet have the numbers to compare to last year. All we know right now is we are about on par and we will know for definite in a couple of weeks where we stand," said Connie Rabold, Tourism Whistler director of communications. Rabold said expectations for the Millennium period were high for all destination resorts a year ago but several variables have come into play. "We thought new Year’s Eve was going to be extremely busy and there would be an issue keeping up with demand. But as we moved half way through the year and Y2K concerns became more public and rates advertised were considered high, then I think the signs were back then that maybe it’s not going to be quite what expected." Rabold said there was a strong early booking trend in April, May and June this year for the Millennium period. "That was a bit earlier than usual for that period. We did see a slight drop off in interest in September and October and that leaves us on par with the same time last year." There is no tourism manual for the Millennium period and several theories are being floated as to why bookings are down. One property manager, Gord McKeever of Rainbow Retreats, said he initially wondered if everyone would blow their cash on Millennium premiums and not be able to afford their traditional middle of winter holidays. "On the flip side, what may well be happening is a lot of people who are normally our customers over the prime Christmas and New year’s Eve period — the upper income strata of business proprietors and senior management people — may well be staying at home or close to work because of this whole Y2K thing. They have a level of responsibility that may be keeping them closer to the nest. It’s really an interesting twist. It’s a hypothesis being floated fairly recently," said McKeever. "It’s a multi-faceted thing. There is also resistance to pricing, which has been really aggressive. This is probably softening as people find they haven’t sold out," said McKeever. "There is also a perception the resort is sold out and this is something we need to actually be working on correcting." Rabold endorses these theories. "There are business executives not in a position to travel and they are our market for sure. They are people we would typically cater to in that period. There is a perception that destinations in general are over-priced, there is a perception everything is booked and there is also a fear of travelling over that period," said Rabold. "The issue of flying is a concern for many overseas guests." The European market has seen a dip for the New Year’s period, with the majority of business coming from the regional market which includes B.C. and Washington State. "There are some overseas countries that aren’t perhaps as prepared and people are far more nervous about leaving home if their country isn’t quite up to snuff in terms of Y2K preparedness," said Rabold. "We recognize there are some variables out there. What we have done to counter that is launched a multi-tiered Millennium campaign. We are sending the message there is still room at the inn, there is excellent value here and we have created some very affordable packages," said Rabold. "Those people are being encouraged to come on out. The minimum nights’ stay in some cases has been shortened from seven to five. I don’t know if some of the premium prices even exist anymore." Rabold said, on the plus side, January and February could see an upswing in business over previous years. "A lot of those people who cannot, will not or do not want to travel over that period will hold off until early January. We are seeing that a lot in our phone calls from people checking into pricing for those few weeks after New Year’s."

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