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Pent up demand' brings 'em here Americans here in droves to be where the snow is By Chris Woodall After flattish numbers in the past few years, Whistler is seeing "a real resurgence" in the number of visitors from the United States, says Whistler Resort Association marketing director Barrett Fisher. The state of the Canuck buck has something to do with that, Fisher says, but major tour operators such as American Airlines Vacations, United Airlines Vacations, North West Airlines Vacations and GoGo Worldwide Vacations out of New York City have focused more on selling flights and ski business into the Vancouver-Whistler area. "Yes the exchange rate gives them excellent value," Fisher says, "but we have come of age in that we are being accepted by these major tour groups as being part of the 'American' market, where before they only promoted U.S. resorts." The consistent No. 1 ski resort rating is finally getting through to these tour giants, Fisher says. "The airlines need to fill seats and they feel they can promote Whistler aggressively," Fisher says. The result of all that interest is that visits from the States are going to increase between 60 and 160 per cent over last year. The WRA has been busy, too. The Washington market has been hit regularly with press releases and other trumpeting efforts that have begun to pay off, Fisher says. "At first the response was flat because people didn't see any snow (in their home town)," but a barrage of press releases — 12 in the past two weeks alone — with every snowfall in Whistler gradually convinced reluctant skiers and boarders that the resort is in an El Niño-free zone. Video cassettes of the white stuff were rushed off to U.S. TV networks to combat any weather reports of a lack of snow. "Before, TV news reports were saying don't go to B.C. or Alberta because there's no snow, now they're saying the B.C. Coast Mountains have lots of snow," Fisher says. "And our internet site is updated constantly with snow conditions in the resort," Fisher says. People are apparently starved for good skiing conditions and Whistler is where they'll get fed. "We received some personalized e-mails from people seeing our snow conditions and writing 'wow, we gotta come up!'" Fisher says. As for overseas business, Canadian consulates in England, Germany, Japan and other markets have been producing press releases saying the same sorts of things about Whistler's bounty. The result is an expected 8 per cent boost in numbers of snow hounds from Great Britain, with similar crowds coming from other European countries, Fisher says. "The U.K. market has grown exponentially over the years, so the per cent increases may get smaller in coming years, but they represent bigger numbers than before," Fisher explains. Latin America is developing as a ski market with interest from Mexico and Brazil sending small, but "high quality" numbers of visitors: they stay a long time and spend lots of cash. The economic crisis in Japan will have some effects on snow fans from that island, but Fisher says lower numbers originating out of Tokyo might be offset somewhat by a growing market out of Osaka and WRA strategies to promote Whistler to a younger, snowboard riding audience.

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