Whistler Blackcomb reports record second quarter in revenue 

Revenue up five per cent over same period last year despite drop in skier visits

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Despite a drop in skier visits, Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Inc. reported record revenue totals for the second quarter of the fiscal year, ending March 31.

Second quarter revenue was up five per cent compared to the same period last year, with $138.8 million. This increase was the key driver in Whistler Blackcomb's record first half of the fiscal year as well, which rose three per cent to $188.6 million.

The record numbers came despite a 3.7-per-cent drop in skier visits compared to last year's second quarter, and a 6.6 per cent decrease in the first half of the ski season. Whistler Blackcomb president and CEO Dave Brownlie attributed the drop in part to the timing of the Easter holiday in 2014, which fell in April instead of March, and lower visitation in the first quarter. The key driver of revenue growth was an increase in revenue per visit, Brownlie noted, which rose by 10.1 per cent to $108.61 (per total visit) for the first six months of fiscal 2014.

Whistler Blackcomb's effective ticket price made up 53 per cent of the revenue per visit, which increased to $57.11 per skier visit in the first half of the fiscal year, up 9.1 per cent from last year.

"This growth was mainly as a result of pricing increases across all of our lift products, the mix of products sold, and reduced utilization of pass and card products, which drove a higher yield per visit for these guests," said Whistler Blackcomb senior VP and CFO Jeremy Black. "The remainder of our revenue per visit for the first half of 2014 increased as a result of price increases and favourable spending patterns in our ancillary businesses. We are particularly happy with the 14-per-cent growth in our retail and rental business, and six-per-cent growth in our Snow School business."

Total visits for the season up to Monday, May 12 totalled just over two million, compared to 2.1 million over the same period last year. The regional market "rebounded" in the second quarter, Brownlie said, with regional skier visits over the six months ended March 31 making up 59 per cent of total visits, with the destination market comprising the rest. This compares to 63 per cent and 38 per cent, respectively, over the same period last year. The resort saw "strong visitation" from the Asia Pacific region, and "relatively consistent" visitation compared to last year from European, U.S., and Canadian air travellers, Brownlie said.

For the first half of the fiscal year, Whistler Blackcomb generated a record EBITDA of $88.1 million, a five-per-cent jump. Adjusted EBITDA for the second quarter was $78.6 million, another second quarter record, which was seven per cent higher than the same period last year.

Operating expenses for the first half of the fiscal year increased by $2.2 million, or three per cent, primarily attributed to wage inflation, a higher volume of Snow School lessons and increases in retail and rental activity, Black said.

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