The collision of long weekends 

click to enlarge WWW.SHUTTERSTOCK.COM - Family day foible This is the first year that B.C.'s Family Day long weekend and the American Presidents' Day long weekend have fallen on the same weekend, after the federal government moved the B.C. holiday to coincide with other Canadian provinces.
  • www.shutterstock.com
  • Family day foible This is the first year that B.C.'s Family Day long weekend and the American Presidents' Day long weekend have fallen on the same weekend, after the federal government moved the B.C. holiday to coincide with other Canadian provinces.

Well, if the long lift line-ups to get up the mountains didn't signal how packed the resort was this past weekend, the horrendous multi-hour drive back towards Vancouver on Monday night sure did.

Social media was alive with images from the Sea to Sky Gondola looking down along Highway 99, which looked like a ribbon of fire stretching south as far as the eye could see thanks to travellers' vehicle brake lights.

Grocery stores were packed, parking lots were packed, everywhere was busy and for the most part smiles lit the faces of workers and business owners alike as Whistler enjoyed a busy long weekend.

Not much news in these observations.

But perhaps what should be focused on is what opportunity is missing.

This is the first year that B.C.'s Family Day long weekend and the American Presidents' Day long weekend have fallen at the same time.

You may recall that Family Day was introduced in 2013. Part of the original impetus behind situating Family Day on the second Monday of February was to encourage British Columbians to get out and enjoy outdoor recreational opportunities before the rush of American visitors the following weekend. Locally, that meant resort hotels, outdoor activity providers, Whistler Blackcomb, and the municipality all offered discounted rates to B.C. residents. The Presidents' Day weekend is one of the priciest in resorts.

Generally the occupancy on the American long weekend in Whistler was strong, often in the 90 percentile whereas the weekend before was much lower. However, when Family Day was placed there occupancy shot up—bringing in between $7 and $10 million in incremental visitor spending at ski destinations across the province.

This is the opportunity we have lost—by the NDP provincial government moving the Family Day weekend to coincide with the U.S. long weekend we have shut out many B.C. travellers from coming to Whistler.

When the idea to move the holiday to the third weekend in February was floated last year many resorts spoke out against it but their arguments fell on deaf ears.

"Moving Family Day is the right thing to do for businesses small and large, and is better for families who may be spread out across the country," said Premier John Horgan in a release a year ago. "This gives families an opportunity to schedule and spend more time with loved ones from other provinces."

Last year Whistler was at peak occupancy across both weekends. Figures comparing the second and third weekend of February this year are not yet available, but it's safe to say that combining the visitors into one big deluge will likely lead to declines in occupancy for the month, and also overall declines in revenue. At the heart of this is the fact that B.C. residents tend to book closer to holiday dates while U.S. visitors are planning ahead leaving little, if any, room for provincial guests to get a room.

And it's not just in Whistler.

An executive at Big White Ski Resort predicted the move would be "a disaster," with B.C.'s popular resorts having room capacity problems.

"All we're doing is cramming everyone into one weekend," Michael Ballingall told the Kelowna Capital News. "So you're just displacing people from B.C. with people who have already booked from America and Ontario."

Said Ian Jenkins, director of sales and marketing at SilverStar Mountain Resort in the north Okanagan: "We used to see good, solid visitation on back-to back-weekends.

"It was great alignment, because (there is) Presidents' Day in the U.S. and you have the Alberta Family Day, so you always filled up that weekend. And then having Family Day in B.C. the weekend before, allowed us to have that weekend busy as well," he told Daybreak South host Chris Walker.

"So, it was really ideal for the ski business."

It may be the sheer frustration some of our visitors experienced last weekend will result in them not booking next year—but surely that is not the best way to even out visitation.

Tags:

Readers also liked…

Latest in Editorial

More by Clare Ogilvie

© 1994-2019 Pique Publishing Inc., Glacier Community Media

- Website powered by Foundation