Tourism heavyweights meet with IOC 

Investment in marketing must be in place before, during and after the Olympics if tourism is to benefit

Top tourism officials need to make sure Olympic visitors get to experience the real Canada and they need to put strategies in place before, during, and after the 2010 Winter Games if they expect the sector to grow.

Those are just two of the suggestions given to the 2010 Tourism Consortium during a two-day meeting with top International Olympic Committee members earlier this month in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“I think what (the IOC) would like to see is the 2010 Games become the new benchmark for how tourism is organized to become a legacy,” said Raymond Chan, chair of the Consortium, which represents Tourism Vancouver, Tourism Whistler, Tourism B.C., and the Canadian Tourism Commission.

To do this the visitor experience has to be seamless, from arrival at the airport to check out. Information on everything from accommodation to the Games schedule to cultural events and dining out has to be just one click or phone call away.

And, said Chan, who is working closely with the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games, it must be absolutely clear that B.C. is open for tourism before, during and after the Olympics.

The Consortium also learned the hard lessons from past Games during its meeting with the IOC.

“Australia… put programs in place to work with the media before (the 2000 Summer Games) and they did a wonderful job hosting the visitors while they were there,” said Chan.

“But right after the Games they thought they had earned it and they stopped funding it, and they cut the funding to the marketing organizations. That is something the IOC said we don’t want to do.”

Only about 30 per cent of the tourism benefits from hosting a Games come before and during the event, said Chan. About 70 per cent of the benefits come in the years following the Games.

It’s hoped, said Chan, that this will help the sector double its growth, from $9 billion to $18 billion annually by 2015 as called for by B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell.

This is the third meeting the Consortium has had with Olympic related partners as it ramps up its strategy to get the most out of the Games and grow tourism locally and across the country. It has also met with heavyweights at NBC, CTV, the BBC and other television rights holders for the Games to find out what they need and to make sure the stories told are the ones B.C. and Canada want beamed around the world.

  It’s expected that over three billion people will watch the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games on television.

“Our job is to make sure that the jobs of the broadcasters are easier, so that ultimately it benefits both of us,” said Arlene Schieven, vice president of marketing for Tourism Whistler.

“It benefits them by having just one stop for where to go for information.

“It is a huge benefit for us to get in front of them this early and find out what exactly is it they are looking for and how can we get them to give us even more exposure.”

The meetings with the IOC also prompted the Consortium to join VANOC for its regular briefings on risk management, so that officials understand how to spin bad-news stories such as highway closures, homelessness in Vancouver, or even terrorist attacks.

Schieven said broadcasters, while focused on the Beijing 2008 Summer Games, were “pleased” that the Consortium had taken the lead and contacted them.

“They were surprised, and pleased that we were so proactive, coming out at this time to develop the relationship and make their jobs easier,” she said.

The Consortium will meet with Asian broadcast rights holders in January and will continue to work on and roll out its strategy to maximize tourism benefits.

This winter will be the first time that television and other advertising for ski resorts in B.C. will use Olympic messaging in a campaign spearheaded by Tourism B.C.

And that organization is introducing a grading system on accommodation accessibility for the province.

“The intent is that by 2010 not only will Vancouver and Whistler have been graded so that people who want to know what the accessibility of those properties are can go on our joint website and identify them, so will other areas of B.C.,” said Chan, who is also vice president 2010 and corporate relations for Tourism B.C.

Tourism B.C. will also launch new programs on customer service, volunteers, and being an ambassador geared toward helping British Columbians get ready to host the world.

“It is our opportunity and it is our opportunity to lose,” said Chan.

“I think (we) are doing some of the right things based on what we have heard and hopefully we will stay on track.”

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