Whistler 2010: a blueprint for Olympic business success 

Whistler businesses see varying success at the Games

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When it comes to making money off the Olympics, the message is simple: plan ahead and don't get greedy.

A town needs to plan early and long to ensure a fun experience and tell its story to the world - in Whistler's case, the tale of a #1 ski resort ready to welcome the world.

The Whistler Chamber of Commerce set right to work helping businesses take advantage of the Games when the bid was announced in 2003. As Chamber President Fiona Famulak tells it, the Games were presented as a "long term pitch" to local businesses.

"It was a great opportunity for our individual businesses to showcase themselves, either through media attention or through face-to-face interaction with the guests while they were here," she says in an interview.

"That was the high level pitch, and all the way along, we emphasized that their success should not be measured in terms of dollars in the 17 days of the Games, but rather the impression and impact they made on the guest in the 17 days, and that would carry us through for the next 17 years."

The Chamber quickly sketched out a profile for the Olympic guest. Visitors would be in Whistler for a short time, take in the Games and the sights around them and then leave.

"We found that location, location, location was the important thing," Famulak says. "So the businesses located on the Village Stroll had a great Olympics because we learned from other Olympic cities, the Olympic guest does not stray too far from the core."

Beneficiaries of a prominent location on the Village Stroll included Araxi, which is situated in Village Square, an area generally recognized as the heart of Whistler.

Executive Chef James Walt says his restaurant capitalized on Games business by introducing a lunch menu, a feature Araxi doesn't normally offer in the winter. It also fielded several inquiries about group availability from executives at VISA, Coca-Cola and McDonald's.

The restaurant had a 95 per cent dinner occupancy at Games-time and people had hardly a hope of getting a reservation. A lunch menu gave the Games-going public a chance to dine at what Gordon Ramsay called the finest of locations where he filmed his popular show, Hell's Kitchen.

"We had something like 4,000 reservations prior to the Olympics," Walt says, adding Olympic traffic peaked on the first day after the Opening Ceremonies.

"It just filled right up and we kind of never really looked back. We were chockablock from that day right to the end."

Wayne Katz, the owner of Moguls, Gone Bakery and Zog's, had a more varying experience. His food outlets were open 24 hours during the Games, regardless of circumstances.

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