wra annual meeting 

Coming off of the best year in its history, the Whistler Resort Association had plenty of good news for approximately 60 people who attended the May 8 annual general meeting. But several members, while congratulating the board of directors and staff on their accomplishments, said they wanted the lines of communication opened up between the membership and the executive. Several people complained about the proxy voting system for electing directors. Some said they didn’t receive their proxies in time to vote and others said it was hard to know who to vote for when there was little information about the candidates. Some called for a return to mail-in voting. While there were three positions on the board open, there was only one election this year. Rick Clare was returned as commercial director by acclamation. Stein Gudmundseth became the new non-hotel lodging director by acclamation. In the only election, Jim Allard was returned as one of the hotel lodging directors. Allard was challenged by Des Acheson of the Pan Pacific Lodge Whistler. Gudmundseth, a Vancouver lawyer and Whistler property owner, replaces Hugh Milchem. WRA President Suzanne Denbak noted that the resort association has taken steps to communicate with its members, including holding open houses in Whistler and Vancouver since the new year and with a new property owners newsletter. Meanwhile, the resort association’s financial statements for 1998 showed a net income of $839,000. That was above the forecast net income of $500,000 and a considerable improvement on 1997’s net loss of $154,000. The WRA also restored its working capital in 1998 ($1.4 million was amassed). In 1997 the resort association finished in a $344,000 deficit position. Member fees grew from $3.8 million in 1997 to $4.4 million in 1998. The financial picture was helped by a reduction in administrative expenses, from just over $2 million in 1997 to $1.5 million in 1998. The financial picture was made possible by growth in nearly all categories in 1998. The winter of 1998-99 has seen even more growth, but Roz Casey, director of market development, told members to prepare for a competitive response from Colorado and Europe next fall. The resort association is continuing to expand many of its marketing initiatives, including air "buy downs" where Whistler offers discount or free flights from strategic U.S. cities, at certain times of the year, as part of a vacation package. Direct mail campaigns in key American cities will also continue and summer television ad campaigns are now targeting San Francisco as well as the Seattle area. As the resort has matured, the WRA’s central reservations office is now offering more activities per reservation, which is responsible for increased dollars per reservation sale. Flights can also be offered as part of the central reservation packages. The WRA has negotiated a deal with an e-commerce company but hasn’t gone live with it yet. Forecasts for the rest of 1999 include 47 per cent hotel occupancy this summer (up from 43 per cent last summer). Golf numbers may be down from last summer’s record because of the late start to the season. Last year the four name courses, Whistler Golf Club, Chateau Whistler Golf Club, Nicklaus North and Big Sky, combined for 102,000 rounds of golf. The courses are capable of hosting about 120,000 rounds in a year. And the First Night New Year’s Eve celebration drew about 12,000 people last New Year’s Eve. The resort is anticipating about 20,000 for First Night 1999.

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