The Big Idea: Effortless ski vacations for Spanish-speaking visitors

Esqui is the Spanish word for ski and Thomas Jiménez, owner of Esqui Whistler, has built a booming travel business around this one word.

Established in 2004, this company is a first of its kind and is dedicated solely to Whistler ski trips tailored to Spanish-speaking travellers. By catering to a specific niche, Jiménez is taking something that may feel very foreign to his potential clients — a ski vacation in Canada — and making it easily accessible.

“The more we cater to our guests’ specific languages and needs, the happier our clients will leave, and sooner they will return. We all know how nice it is to show up somewhere and be recognized, and spoken to in our language. Let’s do the same for those who spend their time and money visiting us,” said Jiménez.

Whistler has a reputation for welcoming the world. In fact, it was this warmth and energy that Jiménez said first attracted him to Whistler. But during his first years here in the early 2000s, he found travel resources for non-English-speaking travellers were scarce. He spotted an opportunity, noticing that Spanish-speaking visitors were commonly gesticulating their way through organizing their holidays with a fair amount of uncertainty and a great deal of good faith.

“We were born out of perceived necessity, as a bridge between this amazing resort we call home and the people who were eager to visit, but daunted by the unknown,” explained Jiménez.

Creating Esqui Whistler, Jiménez made it easier for Spanish-speaking skiers to access the information needed to book their holiday and clearly understand their plans.

Jiménez’s business succeeds when he makes the process of coming to Whistler as simple as possible.

“Some people have never seen snow, let alone worn ski boots or travelled down a snow-covered slope,” he explained. “Through our network of amazing suppliers, an acute attention to service and a simple yet logical procedural workflow, we can offer Spanish-speaking visitors a single, educated point of call to organize all aspects of their holiday.”

When visitors touch down at YVR, a vehicle takes them to their hotel where they are hand-delivered their lift tickets, guided through equipment rental setup and personally introduced to their Spanish-speaking instructors.

The key to operating with this highly personalized model while maintaining the sophistication of a much larger organization has been the integration of enterprise-grade software available to small businesses. Employing technology options like cloud-based software, IP telephony and mobile payments, Jiménez has been able to deliver polished product with the freedom to work from anywhere.

When Jiménez frequently found that both European and Central/South American prospective clients first equated “skiing in North America” with names like Vail and Aspen, he knew he needed to open his market’s eyes to what was on offer further north. Jiménez jumped into trade shows and invested in advertising and found that relationships and personalization made the biggest market impact.

“Solid relationships in the Spanish-speaking skiing and travel worlds as well as engaging private events abroad were a springboard which, once leveraged, allowed us to put out great editorial content and convincing showcases of why we have so much more to offer,” said Jiménez.

It only seems fitting that the hospitality that initially attracted Jiménez to Whistler would be the main ingredient to connect with the Spanish-speaking ski travel world while his passion for personalizing ski vacations to language needs makes Whistler more accessible than ever before.

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