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Tourism Whistler launches 2010 marketing campaign

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Real estate markets and tourism already impacted by Olympic announcement

By Clare Ogilvie

Tourism Whistler has already rolled out its first marketing campaign capitalizing on the announcement that the resort and Vancouver have won the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

"Our immediate goal is to leverage the Olympic announcement to increase awareness of Whistler as a year-round destination," said Barrett Fisher Tourism Whistler’s acting president.

The campaign will offer accommodation starting at $79 per night based on a two-night minimum stay, valid until August 31, 2003. And if people call Tourism Whistler’s Central Reservation line at 1-800 944 7853 they can enjoy a $20.10 gondola ride and lunch special.

Before the winner of the 2010 Games was announced, Tourism Whistler, in partnership with other tourism organizations, distributed a video of the resort.

Every major network carried some of the footage reaching over 14 million people in several key destinations including Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and the province of Ontario.

"This confirms our contention that hosting the Olympic Games is a significant opportunity for Whistler to tell our destination message to a global audience," said Fisher.

The activity on Tourism Whistler’s website has also tripled since the Games were awarded to B.C.

There is no doubt that wining the 2010 Winter Olympic Games is already boosting tourism in B.C.

"The inquiries are huge," said Dave Gazley, vice president of Tourism Vancouver.

"We have received a ton of calls in the last week whether it’s been from individual people or tour operators …or meetings and conventions of sport groups. It has had a huge, huge initial impact."

Gazley, like others in the industry, are excited about the interest in Vancouver and Whistler.

Most aren’t seeing many new bookings in the short term but there are numerous inquiries about the 16 days of the Games in February of 2010.

"We have a manager that works for us full time in Washington D.C. and she got 50 to 100 congratulation calls and calls from her colleagues and customers the day after the announcement," said Gazley.

"Washington DC is one of the biggest markets for convention business.

"When you are an Olympic city is just puts you in a certain league and you do get a lot more inquiries because of it. The corporate and convention world they love to be in an Olympic City."

Gazley said most in the industry are firmly focused on making sure the event is a boost for B.C. now, in the medium term, and beyond the Games.

"We want visitors to come here and enjoy it and want to come back," he said.

"In order to do that you have to be fair and competitive."

Rosalind Genge, director of sales and marketing at the Westin Grand Vancouver, said phones were ringing off the hook at that posh hotel after the announcement.

"We will be working very closely with Tourism Vancouver and the industry just to make sure that it is managed properly," she said.

"Right now we are just taking names and phone numbers and creating a callback list."

In Whistler many hotels and accommodation providers have also noticed an increase in interest.

"You had this quiet time then all of a suddenly you had this huge amount inquiries," said Monica Hayes of the Westin Resort and Spa.

"It is such marvelous news after a tough 18 to 20 months with 911, the SARS virus, and then Mad Cow. There were so many negative things that were impacting the industry, so this is just great news."

Real estate is also being impacted.

Phones, which have been quiet for the last few months as buyers and sellers reacted to global economic conditions and waited to find out who would win the Games, are suddenly ringing again.

" We have had quite a few quiet months but the day after (we won) the Olympics we noticed our telephones ringing a lot more," said top real estate agent Maggi Thornhill of Windermere.

However, said Thornhill, it’s unlikely the prices will go up right away as there are already quite a number of properties on the market.

Intrawest’s exclusive time-share property At Nature’s Door looks right out onto the Dave Murray ski run on Whistler, the site of the Olympic downhill.

" A lot of people are selecting (the period) that is going to give you the pick for the Olympic year for the Olympic week," said Ross McCredie, director of sales and marketing for Intrawest.

" A lot … have already been sold."

A one tenth time-share has risen in price from $284,900 to $314,000 since the first phase of the deluxe homes went on sale last year.

What Whistler will see is a lot more real estate activity. The same is true for Pemberton and Squamish, which have been hot markets for the last several months.

" I think we may find some people who want to sell their homes because the decision has been made," said Michael d’Artois of Remax.

" I think they’ll find there will not be a change in values as a result of this but the increased interest will certainly bring more buyers into the market.

" And the timing is right as it is at the beginning of the busy season between July and December. This will spark a little more interest."

Meanwhile it’s been decided that Whistler’s 2010 Olympic information office will stay open until the middle of October.

It will be open Thursday through Sunday and holiday Mondays from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Over the last year the office has become a focal point of the community and a popular visitor destination.

That was certainly apparent last weekend when over 700 people a day visited the centre.