|This season Whistler is rolling out even more Olympic-themed amenities.|
It’s been almost two years since the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia. At that time, Whistler raised its profile as a destination attracting international visitors. This year, powerful La Niña snowstorms and new Olympic-themed activities are set to drive bookings to this western Canada destination. Travel Agent spoke with Breton Murphy, senior manager, communications, at Tourism Whistler, just before the holidays, and he told us that tourism officials expect a strong holiday season and start of next year.
“[The 2010 Olympics were] the largest in terms of viewership, more than any other winter games with over 3.5 billion viewers,” Murphy said. “At game time we did some research on our key overseas markets. In each of those markets awareness increased dramatically.”
Now a group of new and recent Olympic-themed attractions provides travelers with the chance to experience history. New this season, travelers will get an opportunity to experience an Olympic bobsled ride, where a professional drives three guest passengers down a course at speeds of up to 84 mph. Additionally, there’s a brand-new free public skating program (except holidays; skate rentals are $5) in Whistler Olympic Plaza. Last season, the Whistler Sliding Centre launched skeleton rides in which visitors can pilot their own sled down the last third of the Olympic track, at speeds of up to 62 mph.
At Whistler Olympic Park, the biathlon course has added 43 miles of ski trails and 12 miles of snowshoe trails. Guests can also try their hand at shooting an Olympic biathlon rifle. If they just want to learn about Olympic history, venue tours are also available.
Also drawing visitors this season is a pattern of snowy weather. Last winter was the second snowiest on record, with 52 feet of snow versus an average of 34.
“That impacts bookings the following season,” explained Murphy, citing a “bump in early bookings” for this season. When he spoke with us before the holidays, he noted that, “This Christmas is looking to be one of the strongest in recent memory…higher than last holiday season by double digits.”
That weather looks set to continue this year. Lauren Everest, public relations coordinator at Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort, says November 2011 saw over 10 feet of snow, making it the third snowiest November on record.
To help agents take advantage of the snow, Whistler Blackcomb has rolled out a new booking site: www.whistlerblackcomb.com/travelagents. The site gives special discounts when agents visit the resort; 10 percent commission on accommodations, lift tickets, lessons and equipment rentals; a dedicated call center; and online booking capabilities. Agents can also call 888-767-1413.
Your ski clients can fly into Vancouver International Airport (YVR), where shuttle service is available to downtown Whistler, and transfer to Whistler Blackcomb is available by bus, car and helicopter service.