Res-Res a new direction for Intrawest in ‘harvesting mode’ 

From small beginnings in Function Junction, a made-in-Whistler company has become a star in the Intrawest stable.

Two years ago Intrawest snapped up Stan Sprenger’s Resort Reservations Whistler. At the time the three-year-old company had just done $7 million in reservation business compared to the then Whistler Resort Association’s $10 million.

Sprenger ran a call centre out of Function along the lines of the WRA’s central reservations selling Whistler accommodations. Sprenger also operated another arm of the business doing the same thing in Tremblant and he had a strong on-line presence.

Intrawest bought his company to operate as an inbound travel agency focusing on corporate product and selling anything from air to lift tickets, accommodations and activities.

Now, at the end of Intrawest’s third quarter, Resort Reservations – or Res Res as it is referred to – is seeing a 76 per cent increase in bookings, to just over $29 million on a fiscal year-to-date basis. And, according to Intrawest chairman, president and CEO, Joe Houssian, plans are underway to expand this business to include additional destination resorts outside the Intrawest stable.

"We are putting together a relatively extensive expansion plan for that business," Houssian told media and financial analysts Monday in a conference call to announce Intrawest’s third quarter results.

"It is leading edge and it is attracting attention from other resort operators around the world wanting to access our capabilities there," he said. "It is a business that we not only are using to expand our own resorts but it is also a business we can essentially sell to others."

Houssian said Res Res, like Club Intrawest, is one of the corporation’s new businesses that have substantial opportunity for growth without substantial capital requirements. It is helping Intrawest move out of acquisition mode into its "harvesting mode."

As part of the expansion plans Res Res last week launched Vancouver Reservations, which will operate a central reservations call centre and Web site for the Greater Vancouver area offering one-stop, all-inclusive vacation packages.

In partnership with The Spirit of Vancouver – a Vancouver Board of Trade initiative to promote the city’s cultural and entertainment assets – Vancouver Reservations will promote Vancouver as a summer vacation destination offering consumers choice in luxury accommodation, activities, excursions, entertainment events and transportation options.

"We want to make the process of researching and reserving a Vancouver vacation as simple as possible," said Sprenger.

The company will also aggressively pursue destination markets outside the scope of holdings of its parent company, Intrawest, noted Sprenger. He said he is in the process of evaluating other non-Intrawest destinations as possible markets on which to capitalize.

"We’re convinced that what has been profitable through our Whistler-Blackcomb and Mont Tremblant central reservation models can be profitable in Vancouver and in any number of other leisure travel destinations."

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