With B.C.’s first ever Family Day scheduled for Monday (Feb. 11) — a week ahead of the majority of Canada — the province’s ski industry is expecting to capitalize on increased visitor numbers over the long weekend.
Premier Christy Clark announced in May that the first ever B.C. Family Day would be set a week ahead of the five other provinces that observe the holiday in order to avoid overlap with similar holidays in other jurisdictions, like Presidents’ Day in the U.S., which is typically a busy weekend for ski resorts in the region.
“What would have happened if Family Day occurred on the third weekend in February is the major resorts would have been sold out and have to turn people away. That would have represented a major lost economic opportunity for both the ski industry and the tourism industry,” said David Lynn, president and CEO of Canada West Ski Areas Association (CWSAA). “Secondly, it would be a very frustrating holiday weekend for British Columbians because they would either be unable to secure accommodation at a destination resort, or they’d be paying top dollar, or they’d be fighting lift lineups. So we said if we move it, it’s a significant economic opportunity, it costs the government nothing to move it, and it’s also a much better experience for British Columbians.”
Leaders of B.C.’s ski industry lobbied the provincial government and were instrumental in getting the statutory holiday scheduled ahead of the rest of Canada. The initiative went to a public consultation in the spring, with nearly two thirds of respondents in support of the unique B.C. date.
The CWSAA’s initial estimates are that future Family Days will bring in over $8 million in direct incremental revenue annually for B.C.’s ski industry.
“Although you hear some huge numbers thrown around, (the incremental revenue estimate) doesn’t include any spin-offs, and there was no investment required by the government,” said Lynn. “Because the ski business is a very challenging business economically, because it’s a fixed cost business, $8 million of incremental revenue is very significant for us.”
The revenue estimates don’t apply to B.C.’s inaugural Family Day because 20 ski resorts across the province, including Whistler Blackcomb, will be offering a discount of half off lift tickets to B.C. residents on that day. Many ski resorts are also offering separate promotions to augment the discounted lift prices.
Whistler is expected to benefit significantly from the holiday, with Tourism Whistler’s corporate communications manager Patricia Westerholm saying “we are definitely pleased with the pace of bookings.” Room nights between Friday (Feb. 8) and Monday are pacing ahead of the same period from the last two years. The hike can’t be wholly attributed to the new Family Day, however, as one of the resort’s signature events, the 21st annual WinterPride Festival, is set to wrap Sunday (Feb. 10).
Dozens of local businesses will also provide discounted services and activities in Whistler on Family Day. The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) will offer 50 per cent off day tickets at Lost Lake Cross-Country and Snowshoe Trails, skate rentals at Olympic Plaza and all day admissions or family drop-in rates at Meadow Park Sports Centre.
“Enabling active lifestyles and healthy families is an important component of a strong community and a foundation of our tourism experience,” said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden in a municipal press release. “The RMOW promotion on B.C. Family Day helps move towards those aims.”
The new provincial holiday will likely attract more regional visitors, said Lynn, but it’s also expected to benefit destination skiers travelling to B.C. the following weekend.
“Our focus on Family Day is more local, but it directly relates to destination skiers because those are the people we’re serving on the following week,” he said. “Essentially, we wanted to avoid an overlap in conflict between those two groups, so separating them allows us to do a great job for British Columbians, and then the following weekend do a great job for Albertans and Americans and people from other locations that are coming to visit our destination resorts.”
To learn more about all the Family Day promotions offered by Whistler businesses, visit www.whistler.com/BC-family-day/.