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Organizing accommodation in Whistler a challenge

In less than six years time Vancouver and Whistler will be welcoming 250,000 visitors to watch the Olympics.



When you hear that kind of statistic you can’t help but wonder where they are all going to stay.

That thought is already keeping some bid officials up at night as the Vancouver Organizing Committee sets about drawing up contracts with hotels and other accommodation providers to host the Olympic family, media VIPs, Olympic sponsors and tourists who want to come and enjoy the spectacle.

VANOC has secured about 3,500 rooms in Whistler and another 16,000 in Vancouver.

"Our hotels from day one have supported this and we wanted to make sure that we put together the best hotels accommodation package for the (International Olympic Committee)," said Dave Gazely, of Tourism Vancouver.

"The (IOC) was very, very pleasantly surprised because those of us who live in Vancouver know how wonderful our city is but some of these folk hadn’t been here before and they were just blown away because of the quality of our hotel product."

Setting up the contracts in Vancouver will be a pretty straightforward exercise said Yvonne Curry, project manager of accommodation for VANOC. There will be a standard form with various clauses, which can be added or deleted according to the property.

But getting Whistler’s accommodation sector organized will take a little more work thanks to the layers of owners, management companies and chain hotels which exist.

"Just identifying the layers with the properties was the first challenge," said Curry.

"So we are working with each group individually then collectively to come up with an agreement that will satisfy everybody."

Part of that challenge is dealing with owners of strata-titled properties within large complexes who live overseas. Each time ownership of that unit changes the deal will have to be renegotiated, said Curry.

One of the greatest concerns of organizers is the potential for gouging.

Stakeholders have already set up a formula to set hotel room prices for the Olympic family – sponsors, officials with various sports and others with a tie to the Games. They will be based on the average room rate for the establishment from 2005 to 2007 plus a premium, which will add close to 20 per cent to the room rate.

The accommodation sector will be paid by VANOC, who will then get the money back form the IOC.

"We came up with what we thought would be one of the fairest ways of determining a rate formula so that the Olympic family rooms are at a fair rate," said Gazely.

"Essentially we want to make sure that the world out there knows that Vancouver hotels will not be rate gouging for the Olympic family rooms."

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