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Businesses told to prepare for Olympic opportunities

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Whistler businesses were invited to attend an information session this week to meet representatives of companies that will bring national Olympic committees and sponsors to Whistler to find out what they need and what they are looking to buy.

The three-hour session was co-hosted by Olympic sponsor RBC and the provincial 2010 Commerce Centre.

The following are some of the highlights of the presentation.

• Businesses need to be flexible. If the weather turns nasty bus loads of sponsors may decide to spend time at a restaurant while waiting for a re-scheduled event. The eatery may only get half an hour's notice of the booking. Would you be ready?

• The day of the $450 a meal contract is gone. So is the idea that a business will be rented out for the duration of the Games. It is more likely that bookings will be made for specific meal times or a special event.

• Olympicize your business no matter what it is. If a team wins a medal be ready to celebrate it for the 24 hours following. That might mean offering a Hermanator Hamburger if the Austrians win in the alpine or putting flags up outside your business.

• Agencies that handle sponsors, NOCs and others coming to the Games are looking to buy locally and hire local staff. SportsMark plans to use university students as staff, along with locals.

• For the most part these types of companies will approach businesses themselves. They all share the information they get between themselves.

• They do use the provincial business Olympic ready company registry so get on it at www.2010commercecentre.com .

• There are major challenges in Whistler and the top of the list is the time it takes to get here. Most of these visitors will be coming for the day and are looking at spending six hours on a bus.

• 70 to 75 per cent of visitors who come here will extend their vacation beyond the Olympics and will travel to other parts of B.C.

• Whistler is considered a premiere destination and Olympic clients are looking forward to coming here. The opportunity is there to make them want to come back again and again in the future.

• Booking agencies are looking for activities that are quintessentially Whistler. They are looking for creative ideas from local companies to offer a "wow" experience to their clients. How about taking clients skiing on the mountain with a former Olympian as a guide? It's really about what money can't buy.

• The itinerary of visiting Olympic guests is driven by the event schedule.

• Whistler and Vancouver will face Olympic aversion this year with visitors staying away. Tourism agencies are working to make sure their booking agents know that the venues are finished and the 2010 host cities are open for business. At Games time 90 per cent of Whistler Blackcomb will be open to ski on. The highway will be open to traffic.

• Last year Tourism Whistler hosted 720 media - that is almost double the number in a regular year.

• Whistler.com, the accommodation Internet booking portal has a wait list of 1,500 people looking for rooms in Whistler at Games time. According to Tourism Whistler there are 5,000 rooms that could be booked if property managers get them listed. Olympic visitors will spend no more than $200 to $600 a room per night depending on the luxury of the accommodation.

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