News » Whistler

Park City an eye-opener for council



One of the global assumptions about the Olympics is that prices in the host city generally rocket skywards and that only the very affluent will be able to afford any kind of accommodation.

That, said Councillor Kristi Wells, is a common misconception and it is one that tends to create the exact opposite effect.

Wells was part of a Whistler team that visited Park City, Utah for three days in October. It is one of the venue towns for the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Games and Whistler feels lessons can be learned from Park City’s experiences.

The Whistler team included Wells; fellow councillors Nick Davies and Dave Kirk; municipal administrator, Jim Godfrey; acting director of public works, Brian Barnett; parks planning manager, Jan Jansen; planning director, Mike Purcell and Mayor Hugh O’Reilly.

Wells, also a member of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, met with the director of the Park City chamber of commerce. She said one of the things the Park City chamber has learned from other host cities is that people think things are going to go nuts.

"People have all these big assumptions around business going crazy and prices out of reach and all the rest but actually the opposite is quite true. They have actually been given stats where the year before the Olympics, business is down, the year of the Olympics business is down and the year after the Olympics it is also down from what it traditionally would be."

A similar scenario would be the hyped anticipation around this last Millennium period that had people thinking accommodation would be scarce and that they would be gouged by greedy merchants. The result was folks stayed home in greater numbers than usual and booking rates dropped.

"These assumptions are so prevalent world-wide that business actually goes down. This is the standard they have found in many, many places," said Wells of the Park City Olympic team. "And they have prepared an Olympic marketing plan in response."

For example, those who go skiing in Park City this winter are being guaranteed the same rate and a booking for the Olympic year.

Wells said she also looked at issues around lease and vacancy rates, which are remaining stable.

The Whistler team met with officials from the Park City and Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) and toured venues, including Solider Hollow – where the Nordic events will take place – and the Utah Olympic State Park built especially for the ski jump, bobsled and luge events.

"We have been encouraged, right from the beginning, to visit other host cities," said Wells. "And this trip has been incredibly valuable."