record christmas 

By Amy Fendley The numbers are in and Whistler has outdone itself this time. The figures are record breaking, and it’s all the fault of good weather, a good reputation and the sinking Canadian peso. Hotels, retail shops and restaurants all report the same thing over the Christmas holidays: little elbow room but phenomenal business, considerably increased from last year. "This year’s been just fantastic, the best ever in our 11 year history," said Jeff Coombs, owner of McCoo’s. "We’re happy to say that the last 45 days, from mid-November to now, has been the best intro-to-season ever. With the U.S. currency and the pound to the Canadian dollar, it looks like it’s going to continue to be great." David Campbell, owner of Keir Fine Jewellery, also said business sparkled over the holidays. "Santa comes every year, but he came with two bags full this year," said Campbell. "This is our biggest increase ever, it was great. Anything that had diamonds sold. Diamonds were big this year." David Perry, vice president of marketing and sales for Whistler-Blackcomb confirmed that it was an exceptional Christmas period for the mountains. From Dec. 19 to Jan. 3, there was a 16 per cent increase in visits over the same period last year, making the 1998 Christmas season the busiest ever, and 1998 the busiest year ever. "Over six consecutive days, Dec. 28 through to Jan. 2, there were more than 20,000 visitors daily," said Perry. "But the week prior to Christmas was probably the busiest week we’ve ever had. The interesting thing was how well the resort handled the numbers. And we didn’t seem to have the traffic problems seen last year." Perry also acknowledged hotel occupancy rates being 70 per cent or higher. He claims there are two reasons for this. The first, is that the holiday fell on a Friday, meaning the calendar was in the favour of the vacationer. And secondly, Whistler’s stature internationally as a ski destination, helped once again by great weather and snow conditions. "A lot of people had booked vacations in Colorado, but cancelled them last minute because they (Colorado) didn’t get much snow," said Perry. "We continue to have steady business from regional markets but are seeing an influx from the U.S and Europe." The Chateau Whistler Resort experienced a five per cent increase in business this December over last, and already has 79 per cent occupancy for January, a six per cent leap from last year. Araxi’s service manager, Neil Henderson said that last week the restaurant broke all records from previous years and humbly admits, "these things are never expected. We thrashed everything from last year. We had a lot of locals and a lot of repeat business and have already got quite a few bookings for next year." There were also a lot of people who chose to dine-in over the holidays, as Nesters had a difficult time keeping the shelves stocked. "Sales were up from last year," says Bruce Stewart, Nesters manager. "New Year’s Eve was our busiest day because people get into speciality items a lot more, like tenderloin and prime rib. Christmas is more traditional. It took us all by surprise though, there was so much more business this year. We found our shelves being bare here and there and couldn’t seem to stock fast enough." And how about apres? "It was very busy," said the Longhorn’s Norm Strom. "We had quite a few more visits than usual. It’s been busier on average every day this season. Last year we had our busy days, this year was busy outside of those days. The weather really helped out a lot. It’s been steady since right before Christmas to yesterday (Jan. 4), and there are still a lot of people on the hill."

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