Tourism Whistler developing own strategies 

Tourism leaders from across the province met to brainstorm in Vancouver last week as the industry continues to search for ways to mitigate huge losses following the terrorist attacks on the U.S.

More than 200 delegates from the industry discussed marketing strategies and swapped advice about how to cope with a shrinking market.

The Greater Vancouver tourism industry expects to have between 500,000 and 900,000 fewer visitors before the end of the year because of the Sept. 11 terrorism attack.

That translates into lost revenues of between $219 million and $391 million.

Quebec City faces a tourism loss of up to $40 million following the cancellation of up to 25,000 rooms to the end of the year.

Whistler has lost conferences and bookings in the aftermath of the attack. While no local figures are available it is estimated that the resort has lost in excess of a million dollars.

Suzanne Denbak, Tourism Whistler’s president and CEO, attended the Vancouver tourism summit.

"From our perspective the forum was interesting but it was not new information," she said.

"I attended thinking there may be additional information, late-breaking, that we may not be aware of, but in actual fact just through our own contacts in the industry the information there was basically things we were already familiar with."

Tourism Whistler has been in frequent contact with colleagues around the province and across the country, said Denbak.

These conversations and market intention survey information received this week will form the basis of the resort’s marketing strategies for the fall and winter season.

Many other tourism organizations are turning their focus to a local drive market or are offering attractively priced packages with flights within Canada.

Westjet this week announced direct flights from Ottawa/Hamilton to Kelowna as part of a vacation package with Big White Ski Resort. An eight-night, seven-day skiing package, including flight, will start at $999 per person.

Denbak said Tourism Whistler was in discussions with airlines flying into Vancouver but no new special packages were available yet.

Tourism Vancouver believes tourism may be kickstarted if the Canadian Tourism Commission offers short and long-term support for tourism businesses, the $495 million expansion of the Vancouver convention centre goes ahead, both local and federal governments work to ensure free-flowing and safe border traffic, and federal officials reconsider allowing foreign airlines to operate domestic routes in Canada.

"It important for us to continue to develop our own strategies," said Denbak.

"We will have our positions finalized next week. We will have the research, and in parallel with collecting the research, we have been developing our plans and we will simply look to the research to confirm that we are in fact headed in the right direction."

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