Tourism Whistler predicting growth 

Visitor numbers, based on room nights, are forecast to be up this summer over last and up again next winter, according to Tourism Whistler.

Alan Rice, manager of research and intelligence for Tourism Whistler, told members Tuesday hotel occupancy for the entire summer is expected to be reach 45 per cent, 2 per cent ahead of last summer’s final tally. May and June saw increases in room nights sold, but July was even with last year.

Significant increases in room nights are coming from Washington state and Europe.

Rice noted, however, that day visitors numbers have decreased from last summer.

The winter forecast is for an overall 6.5 per cent increase in room nights sold, with particular gains in February and March. April numbers are expected to decline as Easter is March rather than April.

Tourism Whistler predicts overall occupancy for the winter to be 68 per cent. There will be a 2 per cent increase in the volume of rooms for next winter.

The long-range forecast is for room nights to continue to grow over the next five years. With room inventory expected to increase 18 per cent by 2003, occupancy levels for the whole year will increase to 2005 but won’t necessarily show growth each year.

The forecasts are based on a mathematical model and don’t take into account factors such as weather and exchange rates.

Rice also outlined some of the results from the winter survey of visitors. Among the findings:

• 16 per cent of visitors had booked all or part of their vacation on the Internet, up from 3 per cent in 1997-98;

• 55 per cent of visitors last winter reported incomes over $100,000, compared to 35 per cent of visitors in 1996-97;

• 30 per cent of parties in Whistler travelled with children;

• 12 per cent of parties had someone in their group who didn’t ski or snowboard.

Rice said there is also a growing perception that Whistler is becoming expensive. That feeling was strongest among Lower Mainland and Ontario visitors.

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