Whistler hotels shelter stranded travellers 

Long-term effects on tourism not known

There’s no denying that the tragedies that struck in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, leaving thousands dead and thousands more injured at the hands of terrorists, had far reaching economic, social and political consequences.

Even the resort town of Whistler, in its own small way, is part of the story.

The Coast Whistler Hotel, Fairmont Chateau Whistler and the Listel Whistler Hotel (Best Western) put up some 300 travellers, mostly Asians, who found themselves stranded in Vancouver Tuesday when flights were diverted out of U.S. air space in Canada.

The travellers were on two Ana Nippon Airways flights, one bound for Los Angeles and the other bound for San Francisco. Whistler’s Endeavour Tours, which has affiliations with JTB and Canadian Koko tour companies, and the airline took care of the arrangements locally.

"All of them want to leave as soon as they can get out of here," Lisa Matsumoto, a spokesperson for Endeavour, said Wednesday.

"They’re actually taking it very well, they understand the situation, and there haven’t been that many complaints. Everybody’s tired, and a lot of people have commitments they have to meet, some weddings, some business meetings."

According to Matsumoto, Endeavour had about two hours notice to make the arrangements. The hotels, according to Coast Whistler Hotel general manager Stacy Manning, had even less time.

"It was incredibly short notice. We got a call from an Asian tour company and the next thing we know the buses are on the way," she said. "Basically it was all very last minute."

The check-in was particularly chaotic, with only a few guests who spoke English. Front desks had to get the guests’ names into the computer in order to redirect any incoming calls.

After all that, Manning still isn’t sure how many people are staying in the Coast Whistler Hotel.

"We originally had 85 rooms on hold, and only 70 rooms ended up being used. That could mean up to 140 people."

Without luggage, many of the tourists went shopping.

"They all came in wearing the same Salomon T-shirt – I guess there must have been a sale," said Manning.

The switchboard was jammed as guests called friends, families and employers to update them on the situation.

Wednesday morning was a waiting game, with travellers updated periodically on the status of their flights. They were taken on a six-hour round trip to Vancouver Airport to pick up their luggage and were told to expect to stay in Whistler for at least another night.

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