Bid Corp seeking rooms for 2010 

Lessons from earlier Games being applied to pricing

Whistler accommodation owners can expect a letter in the mail in the coming weeks as the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Bid Corporation seeks to secure rooms for the Olympic family during the 2010 Games.

The direct mail campaign, which will go to about 6,400 commercial property owners in Whistler, will solicit commitments in principle for an Olympic room bank.

The commitments must be in place as part of the Olympic Bid Book, which must be submitted to the International Olympic Committee in January 2003 by the bid corporation.

The owners will be asked to guarantee a special rate for the Olympic family, including IOC families, sponsors, media and sporting officials, among others, for up to 12 weeks.

The rate will be the premium market rate in February 2009, plus a five per cent increase.

"It will be a high rate but the international family won't mind paying that," said Terry Wright, vice president of Bid Development, at the last in a series of chamber of commerce meetings on the impact of the 2010 Games in Whistler.

The rate is being set in response to price hikes during hallmark sporting events.

Wright used the example of the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, where a local hotel put its prices up three times higher than their normal rates during the Games.

"The international family has often felt that they were gouged in past events," said Wright to the handful of people at the meeting.

To date, the Bid Corp has about 14,500 Vancouver hotel rooms committed using this formula. They are looking for roughly 18,500 in total.

In Whistler, five properties have agreed to the special rate, including the Chateau. At this point, 700 units have been secured in Whistler.

Wright is hoping to guarantee about 3,000-3,500 rooms, using the direct mail campaign, by the time the Bid Book goes to the IOC.

The Bid Corp will also be asking the hotels not to bump up their prices for additional services, like room service and dry cleaning.

"We will be asking the hotels for a commitment to maintain their pricing," said Wright.

Local retailers have also been concerned about pricing during the Olympics, said Wright.

Their concern is that an exclusive merchandising deal with Roots will make Olympic gear too expensive.

The Bid Corp has since told Roots that they will only grant them a non-exclusive license so that another company, like Boardroom or Wilson, can market Games merchandise too.

There have also been discussions about doing a unique design with Whistler-Blackcomb.

But in order to take full advantage of the sales opportunities, Whistler needs to make its branding more consistent by using the word "Whistler" everywhere, said Wright.

"Whistler is a souvenir market," he said.

"It's a key area from a sales perspective."

Whistler, a souvenir shopper's haven, can capitalize on this demand for Olympic paraphernalia.

Sales in Salt Lake City may have been down due to lost branding opportunities, said Wright.

Many souvenirs had different venue names tattooed across them instead of just Salt Lake City.

"They could have reinforced the brand better," said John Nadeau, chair of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce who went to Salt Lake City after the Games to study the economic impact to the area.

Merchandise sales may have also been lost due to long lineups and waits of up to five hours during the 2002 Winter Games.

"Some of the lines snaked for half a mile because they wanted to take something home," said Wright.

"You gotta think that they lost a lot of sales."

As far as the 2010 financial impact to the average Whistler resident, Wright pointed out there will be no local tax burden as a direct result of the Games.

The operating costs run around $1.2 billion, all of which will be funded by the private sector.

The IOC will kick in roughly $750 million from broadcasting rights, ticket sales, high-level sponsorship and other sources. That means that $500 million must be raised in the domestic marketplace through national and local sponsorship.

Wright doesn't think this will present too much of a problem.

Salt Lake City received $660 million Cdn in TV fees and managed to raise $800 million in the domestic marketplace.

"The power of the Olympics still manages to stagger people in what it can achieve," he said.

Despite all the new information presented at the meeting, it was an old topic which raised the most concern – Highway 99.

With rumours swirling about long delays over a four-year period, there are major concerns about the proposed upgrades.

"There is a real concern that it is going to be a devastating impact on this community," said Councillor Nick Davies, chairman of the Olympic Bid Committee for the Whistler Chamber of Commerce.

But Wright argued that the road has to be fixed regardless of whether the Olympics come to Whistler or not.

"That road can't be built for the Olympics," said Wright.

"That road has to be fixed because it has to be fixed."

This session marked the conclusion of the information sessions hosted by the chamber.

With this information in hand the chamber will develop a resolution to consider whether it is appropriate to support and endorse the Olympic bid at this point.

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