Tourism Whistler sounds warning 

Economic downturn expected to impact Whistler, but there are bright spots

click to enlarge Discount Count More people but less money was spent at the 2008 Turkey Sale, possibly a sign of things to come
  • Discount Count More people but less money was spent at the 2008 Turkey Sale, possibly a sign of things to come

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Tourism Whistler also did a survey of Washington and California visitors last season, and found that roughly a third were planning to take fewer trips, and a third were taking less expensive trips. “About 25 to 30 per cent said (the economy) wouldn’t affect them, but we need more than that,” she said.

Karen Goodwin, director of sales, also gave a presentation. Goodwin lamented the fact that 25 airlines went under last year, including Zoom Airlines which represents 15,000 seats to B.C. (far less than the 50,000 quoted in a previous article). As well, she quoted a study that found that up to 30 more airlines will go out of business this year.

“It may not affect us directly, but it affects confidence,” she said. “When XL Airline went under three weeks ago, they stranded 60,000 people.”

In addition, fewer flights from the U.S., Toronto, and Japan will be landing at Vancouver International Airport because of the costs involved. Comparatively, Goodwin said it costs airlines about twice as much to fly into to Vancouver as it does to fly to Colorado.

Diana Lyons, vice president of operations, also presented the results of her telephone surveys with booking agents around the world. The results of those surveys are confidential, but most agents expect drops in the double digits.

She also noted that there were a half million empty rooms in the first three months of 2008, and that the drop predicted will add another 100,000 empty rooms to the total. As well, Whistler’s average daily rate for rooms was creeping up in the past year, and she said that accommodation providers were pricing themselves out of the market.

“The average is over $300, which is a big concern for us… and we’re also seeing the length of stay decline,” she said. She noted that many accommodation providers in other resorts are providing discounts of 25 to 30 per cent to agents and package deals, while local accommodation partners are offering a 10 to 15 per cent.

With the bad news out on the table, Tourism Whistler announced its strategies for dealing with the economic downturn. For Schieven, that means refocusing marketing spending on locations where there was a high rate of return last year and on the regional market.

When asked how Whistler could compete with other B.C. resorts that are vying for the same regional market, she said that because of its location Whistler does a better job attracting two- to three-day visitors than other resorts who typically do better attracting guests for five to seven days. She also pointed to packages being offered to the local market, including a two nights for under $200 program.

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