Tourism Whistler learning to deal with global challenges 

Winter room nights down

Tourism Whistler is predicting a six to eight per cent decline in room nights for the winter season just ending, according to president and CEO Suzanne Denbak.

The decline is expected to peak at about nine per cent in March 2003, with the pull back coming primarily from the long-haul market to Whistler.

SARS, the war in Iraq and global uncertainty all contributed to the decline.

But if there’s one thing that Tourism Whistler learned from the year before it’s that it is hard to predict the future in today’s global climate.

"These days it’s virtually impossible to plan a year... ahead," Denbak said at Tourism Whistler’s May 14 annual general meeting.

Though they can’t predict, the can adapt to change and Denbak said that the previous business year taught Tourism Whistler how to adapt to change very quickly.

In 2002 the tourism industry was still coping with the fallout from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, with reduced flight capacities and tougher border crossings as well as an economic downturn south of the border.

Looking back Denbak said: "A challenging year. We accomplished a lot."

Tourism Whistler took a new tack in marketing last year, shifting gears to focus on the regional and rubber tire market and on the long haul markets of Britain, Australia and Mexico.

In terms of general revenue the organization was just shy of 2001’s numbers with almost $12 million generated through membership assessments, marketing and sales, central reservations, conference centre business and the Whistler Golf Course.

The conference centre’s revenues were up slightly in 2002 compared to the previous year even though the centre was closed for renovations for the final three months of that year.

And the revenues from the golf course were also on par with the previous year.

Tourism Whistler’s expenses for the year came in at just over $11 million, up slightly from the previous year with additional expenses in marking and sales and administration.

The expenses from central reservations were decreased significantly since outsourcing that side of the business over the past year.

Denbak also shared the resort association’s goals for 2003 at the meeting with a number of initiatives on the horizon.

Tourism Whistler has secured a number of resort-wide pieces of conference business for the coming year, which will spin millions of dollars into the resort.

They are also looking at a sustainability plan, designed to complement the ongoing work being done at the municipal level known as Whistler. It’s Our Nature.

They have also dedicated resources to focus on the Olympic bid, to ensure Whistler remains an icon throughout the bid process.

"When we’re successful on July 2 we will have a strategy in place," Denbak said.

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