soft tours 

Tourists like Whistler’s soft side subhead: U.K. now the resort’s biggest overseas market By Paul Andrew Some overseas visitors to British Columbia are now beginning to discover some of the activities B.C. residents have taken for granted their whole lives, and Whistler is one place where visitors can get one of the best deals in the province. Soft adventure tour operators, a catch-phrase coined by numerous tour companies participating at the annual Canada West Marketplace show in Victoria Dec. 1-4, say they are receiving more and more requests from European and Japanese tourists to explore B.C.’s rugged wilderness while they are here on vacation. Tourism Whistler was at the show in Victoria, which was utilised by 146 tour operators from 28 countries — more than double the number at last year’s show. Roz Casey, senior manager of market development for Tourism Whistler, said soft adventure can be anything from snowshoeing to snowmobiling, as opposed to mountain climbing or hiking, where good physical fitness is required. "An all ages activity would be considered soft adventure," Casey said from Gastown in Vancouver Wednesday, where she is based for Tourism Whistler. "And 60 per cent of the 104 appointments we had at the show in Victoria requested information on soft adventure. Clients want more than the basic tour, which is accommodation and time on their own. They want to fill that time with specific activities." And that could be something as simple as a trip up Whistler Mountain in the gondola — which is a big thrill for people who have not seen a 7,000 foot mountain up close — or in the summer, a guided tour along the Valley Trail. Both of these activities can be an adventure for visitors. Casey said other tour operators will include Whistler in a tour of B.C., to show the contrast in the environments among Victoria, Vancouver, Whistler and Kamloops. "We had 12 members from the resort at the show, and that would be tour or adventure companies. And of course Whistler-Blackcomb was there," Casey said. "But tour groups like Canadian Snowmobile Adventures, the hotel chains that deal with overseas clientele, were all there to sell the resort first. The mountains will talk about new developments. And we’ll talk about snowshoe tours that will take you out to feed the Whisky Jacks. "We’re getting requests about adventure opportunities that we’ve always known about, but perhaps didn’t mention before now. We’ve always promoted soft adventure. It wasn’t a surprise for us, it’s just that it really depends on the market." Casey said although the U.K. is clearly the leading overseas market, partly because of the strength of the U.K. pound, Scandinavian tour companies are showing strong interest in Whistler and B.C. "Scandinavia is just now becoming more aware of Whistler. The interest is growing. They mostly went to resorts in France up until now."

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