Tourism Whistler officials strategizing on growing all-season visitors and global brand 

Annual general meeting for Tourism Whistler focuses plan and sees new board members elected

Despite amazing snow levels Whistler's room nights fell eight per cent this season in the post Olympic year.

But Tourism Whistler officials expect the summer to be up by one per cent.

"We are anticipating at the end of this winter season that we're presently in, to be down eight per cent in room nights, that is not good news but we would like to hope that we're meeting the bottom of that trough," said Tourism Whistler president and CEO Barrett Fisher at the organization's Annual General Meeting last week.

"Looking at summer, last summer was down two per cent and we're anticipating this upcoming summer to be up one per cent."

Tourism Whistler's extensive research shows travellers to the resort in summer are more regional and Canadian than winter, making that season more stable. Winter has traditionally been more reliant on the destination market, making it more susceptible to the turbulence of currency and international economic crisis.

Downturns in U.S. and U.K. markets are intrinsically linked to winter's poor showing. However, Fisher called the Canadian and Australian markets Whistler's "bright lights," with triple digit growth coming from down under. Secondary markets have been defined as Mexico, Germany, Japan and Alberta, but with the Japanese earthquake and tsunami that economy isn't as dependable as it has been in previous years. New visa requirements for Mexico have hindered any business coming from the south, but Fisher said the tertiary markets of Brazil and New Zealand are showing promise. The emerging markets of China and India are also being targeted, with cultural specialists working on country specific branding to generate traffic.

To help draw those markets and tap remaining travellers, Tourism Whistler is expanding its primary product offerings beyond the traditional skiing and snowboarding, golf, hiking and mountain biking the resort is known for. With the European market in mind they've put marketing energy towards Nordic skiing in the Callaghan Valley and are working with the RMOW and third-party groups to promote the arts, culture and heritage, sport tourism and health and wellness.

"This is really core to our unique point of difference and now that the Games are over, the opportunity to have a greater focus on festivals, events and animation will be an important value added for our guests," said Fisher.

"When you look everywhere, it's no longer in wintertime about skiing, it's about sun. It's about the capacity in Mexico, in Hawaii, in Vegas - those are destinations that we're up against so it's no easy job, we obviously have our work cut out for us. It's about finding creative ways to continue to grow our awareness."

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