Weather or not... 

Cool temperatures, grey skies have mixed impact on resort business


There's no question that it's been colder and greyer than usual in Whistler - up until Tuesday, July 26, the month of July 2011 is the coldest the resort has experienced since 1986, according to Environment Canada weather records.

With visitors to the resort booking later than ever - days or sometimes hours ahead of arrival rather than weeks or months out as they have in the past - weather does play a role in travellers' decisions. How big a role is debatable.

Despite the cold and grey, the summer is on pace to be one of Whistler's best ever - third best at this point by a few percentage points. Crankworx was a huge draw in recent weeks, and last weekend's unexpected sun probably helped convince some of our visitors to make last minute plans.

"The resort was literally buzzing (on the weekend)," said Breton Murphy, senior manager of communications at Tourism Whistler. "Definitely it was great for the resort and for the general morale in the community because we got great weather and a surge in visitation. But the interesting thing is that when we look at May (room nights) were down slightly, June was busier than normal and up nearly 20 per cent over last year. And now we're pacing in July and August to be stronger than the same months last summer... the pace of bookings is definitely looking a few percentage points above what we saw last summer."

Murphy said Tourism Whistler doesn't report on the impact of weather on visitor numbers because it's ultimately out of the resort's control.

"It would be of interest to look at, but it's not like the information can help us plan. But what's interesting is looking at the lack of sunshine and the lower than normal temperatures, and despite that it looks like one of our better summers."

Murphy said it was likely a combination of things, including the growth of conference business and competitive pricing. The impact of events has also been an influence.

"We'll have more empirical data once we have a visitor survey complete at the end of summer and we're able to look back and say what the key reasons are for people visiting," he said. "Definitely, in terms of the events we've been hosting, it's probably one of our busiest summers in terms of animation."

Some of the events that have taken place this summer include the Whistler Half Marathon, the final stage of the BC Bike Race and Crankworx. Still to come are the Warrior Dash on Aug. 6, for which 4,500 people are registered to compete, and the RBC GranFondo Whistler in September, which will bring 7,000 road riders to town.

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