Less than five per cent of all the commercial space in Whistler has been contracted out for the 2010 Olympic Games.
To date only one restaurant, one sport shop, one golf course clubhouse, some lounge space, a community facility and some spaces inside the Olympic fence — like Dusty’s, Canski and guest relations — are booked.
But now that the Beijing Summer Games are over a host of groups will be looking to book out space in Whistler, said Jodi Westbury, director of research and product enhancement for Tourism Whistler.
“Beijing is over and now the attention is squarely focused on us and Vancouver,” she said.
“I think what surprised me was how few commercial spaces are booked thus far.”
There are five restaurants that are currently in negotiations, along with one conference space and one retailer.
Speaking to a packed Chamber of Commerce lunch this week Westbury said anyone interested in renting out a space should get organized now. That includes drawing up a one-sheet description of your space and its amenities along with a couple of photographs.
That information should be shared with the Chamber of Commerce matching program and the B.C. 2010 Commerce Centre as both these organizations are the go-to shopping places for national Olympic committees, sponsors and governments out there looking.
People should also have firm idea of what rent they are looking for.
Ben Thomas of VIP Mountain Holidays said during a panel discussion following the lunch that, those thinking of renting should figure out their net profit for a busy month and use that figure as the guideline for a rental charge. If renters want to add in staff or food and beverage that needs to be accounted for.
Most groups looking to rent, said Thomas, have done this may times before and have set budgets.
“The demand is not overwhelming but it is there,” he said.
“What we as Whistler really need to do is make sure that we show that we are available, that we are reasonably priced, and that we are ready.
“They are not going to overpay for these bookings. These clients are very experienced and they have done it before. They have a very set budget …They come in and say, ‘here is my budget. What can I get for that budget?’”
Thomas said there is quite a high demand for one night buy-out for both retail and commercial spaces.
Joey Gibbons, of the Gibbons Hospitality Group, believes the one-night renters are a good alternative for his properties, such as the Longhorn.
In general he found the price being offered for his properties was too low considering February is one of his busiest times.
“… In every case it’s been less than I have ever done in those months,” Gibbons told the lunch attendees of the deals on offer.
“I think sometimes their expectations and our expectations aren’t coming together.
“Our idea so far is to approach it like any other festival in February and hopefully Nike will want to rent it one night… etc, etc.”
The groups coming to Whistler include the unaccredited and accredited media, national sport organizations, governments, future Games organizers, corporations, sponsors, the workforce, athletes, security, friends and family, and spectators.
Many of those groups will be looking for space. And, said Westbury, Whistler can’t forget that while it is a partner with Vancouver for the Games the metropolis is our biggest competitor when it comes to commercial bookings.
“We certainly can’t forget that we have a pretty significant competitor down the road… and it is impacting our ability to activate programs here in Whistler.
“Transportation logistics factor prominently and I think it is fair to say that unfortunately the rock slide that we experienced this summer didn’t give them an additional sense of confidence in terms of going up and down the highway.”
Already U.S. based Jetset sports, the official hospitality package sponsor for the 2010 Games, is keeping its base of operations in Vancouver, said Westbury.
Another hurdle for Whistler is the fact that many of those looking for commercial space are simultaneously looking for accommodation and if they can’t book that they aren’t about to book a party.
“…We know from the accommodation forum and local newspapers that some of the groups have been having challenges securing accommodation within the resort,” said Westbury, using the unsuccessful German National Olympic Committee’s search for 100 rooms as an example.
“ …That is one example of many,” she said.
The chamber will post the lunch discussion and the questions and answers session on its website for those who were unable to attend.