U.S. visits down 10 per cent for winter 

Overall 2007-08 winter business on par with last year's numbers, reports Tourism Whistler

Although final winter season results still need to be tabulated, Tourism Whistler is reporting a decline in the U.S. market this winter compared to last year.

"Right now, year to date, we are looking at an approximate 10 per cent decline in the U.S. market," said spokesperson Breton Murphy. But he added that overall visits to Whistler this winter are on par with last year.

"Although we are always hoping for some growth, the context is important here, considering a lot of the challenges we are facing out of the U.S. market, such as passport and boarder crossing issues, fuel prices, and the economy slowing down."

Since reasons for this decline are mainly due to factors outside of Tourism Whistler's control, Murphy said that Tourism Whistler's approach with the U.S. market is to focus on Whistler's value as a resort, through things like growing group business, leveraging 2010 and leveraging new product offerings, such as the anticipated Peak to Peak gondola, the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre and Whistler Olympic Park.

"We are focusing our efforts on things we can control, and what we can control is working together with our members to makes sure the message is clear about our value," he said.

Despite the drop in U.S. numbers, winter visits were about the same as last winter. This statistic is notable given that the 2006-07 winter season was one of Whistler's strongest ever and came close to breaking a record set in 2001.

The reason this year's numbers remained high was partly due to growth in other markets beyond the U.S., including Eastern Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany.

According to Murphy, these strong numbers will continue into the next few months, with summer 2008 forecasted to be on par with last summer's record breaking figures. Specifically, April will be slightly lower than last year, largely due to Easter's timing. May and June are pacing higher and July and October also lower.

"We are seeing opportunities for growth out of British Columbia, the United Kingdom and Australia and maybe some softness out of Washington and California," said Murphy.

More specific numbers on this past winter season will be available in mid-May.

Murphy added that while the independent U.S. travel market has slowed down, opportunities still exist to grow group business in the U.S. market.

"Right now, the group and corporate business out of the United States is not currently expected to see a decline in numbers," he said.

"However, what is interesting is surveys in this sector suggest that they are looking at ways to curb their associated costs by maybe spending less on audio/visual or food and beverage."

Other markets which saw a decline this year include Japan and some domestic markets.

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