Price a factor for Olympic travellers 

Jet Set Sports to bring 150,000 people to B.C.

People coming to Whistler for the 2010 Winter Games will pay twice as much to stay in the resort as they would to stay in Vancouver.

And that, said Mark Lewis, president of Jet Set Sports the official supplier of packaged trips for 2010, is making Vancouver a popular choice for clients.

“The price points right now are about two-and-a-half times more for a mountain based program than a city based program,” Lewis told over 140 people at a Chamber of Commerce lunch sponsored by the RBC 2010 Speaker Series this week.

“I expect that this community is used to competing with Vail and other large resorts for that tourist dollar.

“But for the Olympics you are competing with Vancouver because the people coming to the Olympics are trying to decide, am I going to stay up here or am I going to stay down in the City?”

It doesn’t mean visitors won’t come up to Whistler, said Lewis, but looking at the costs of the packages is one important factor for his clients in making that final decision.

Tourism Whistler’s Barrett Fisher said she was not surprised to hear that the resort was coming in as the more expensive option since the Games were being held in peak season while Vancouver’s rates were based on low season numbers.

“I think at the end of the day Tourism Whistler’s role is really to communicate the importance of honest and competitive pricing and make sure that we are (charging) a premium price but not gouging,” she said following the lunch.

“Do we think that there will be potentially more demand in Vancouver than there is in Whistler? Well, yes. But it is a much bigger city. Do we simultaneously think that there will be a great deal of demand for Whistler? Well, we know already that there is.

“I think we are always concerned about that message that we are considered to be out of reach for some.

“I think most people would expect that whether you come at New Years or for the Olympic Games you will pay a premium, but it is a matter of making sure the premium is in the 10 to 25 per cent range, not the 50 to 100 per cent range.”

Jet Set Sports looks after the hospitality needs of some of the world’s biggest corporations including AT&T, Dow, Deutsche Bank, Rona, Sports Illustrated, and Citigroup.

That can mean booking corporations into Games packages at the five-star level, or arranging for the needs of people who have won contests to the Games offered by these same corporations.

The company expects to bring 150,000 to 175,000 guests to the 2010 Games.

All will attend events in both Vancouver and Whistler with most staying an average of four nights.

Jet Set will be looking for activities that are quintessentially Whistler to entertain the guests staying in Vancouver and in the resort. It’s likely, said Lewis, that many will want to ski for half a day, but guests will also want other activities to do as well.

Running all these hospitality programs takes staff. Lewis said Jet Set would be looking to hire about 1,300 people to help out.

Asked where the company planned to find the workers and house them in a resort already desperate for staff and housing, Lewis replied: “This is a common issue that we face.

“What we find is two things. A lot of people just plain come out of the woodwork. People that might not work they want to work for one month.

“Retired people are a big part of our workforce, people that just want to experience the Games firsthand. We will have people that will write us from all over Canada — in fact they are already doing that — and they are saying I have a cousin or I have a friend that lives (in Whistler) and I can stay with them. I just want to come work.”

Jet Set Sports, which has already opened an office in Vancouver, is currently looking for activities for its clients and Lewis urged businesses that had something to offer to get organized.

Those words were echoed by Betty MacLeod, RBCs senior manager of Olympic business development.

“There are strategies for how businesses can capitalize on 2010 opportunities,” she said at the lunch.

MacLeod suggested interested businesses contact the Whistler Chamber, or check out www.2010commercecentre.gov.bc.ca, www.2010legaciesnow.com, or betty.e.macleod@rbc.com.

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