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VANOC plans outreach program to secure accommodation

Failure to get enough rooms may tarnish resort’s image say Games organizers



Organizers of the 2010 Olympic Games are putting together an outline of their accommodation proposal in the hopes of getting more property owners on side for the event.

The document, which should be ready in early July, will be sent out and updated over the next six months as the Vancouver Organizing Committee strives to reach its target for accommodation in Whistler.

Right now VANOC has secured close to 1,000 of the 3,500 rooms it needs in Whistler. All the single owner hotels, such as the Fairmont Chateau, are on board. VANOC hopes to have the balance arranged by the time the 2006 Torino Winter Games are finished next February.

The biggest stumbling block is the difficulty in reaching all the individual resort property owners. Many live overseas and their property managers or strata councils do not have the power to act for them.

"There is an underlying structural challenge just because of the fractional ownership of the buildings which makes it difficult because neither the strata councils nor the property managers are necessarily empowered to provide a commitment on their rooms," said Terry Wright, senior vice president of Olympic planning for VANOC.

"Our greatest fear is that if people don’t support us in this program not only will we have to accommodate the people in Vancouver… it will have a negative impact on Whistler’s reputation.

"A lot of these users are very influential, very powerful people with strong media contacts and they will complain."

Wright said many of those who have been contacted are interested in VANOC’s proposal, which would see the property owners offered a rate based on what their property would rent for in 2010 plus inflation and a 15 to 20 per cent Olympic premium.

"When we came up with our pricing formula, which was essentially 15 per cent premium over February rates as they otherwise would be, the idea was to provide some benefits in the form of occupancy and some benefit in the form of an Olympic premium," said Wright.

"But at the same time we wanted to demonstrate to the sponsors, the broadcasters, the other sponsorship groups, and all the big users that Whistler offers good value and that this was a destination that had above average amenities, a stunning little community that was a good value with good attractions.

"This wasn’t about getting a big score for two weeks worth of accommodation. It was let’s take the long view."

In fact VANOC’s formula has been adopted by the International Olympic Committee and is now mandatory for the 2012 Games.

Wright believes it is critical for both VANOC and Whistler to get property owners into the accommodation pool.

"We really want to demonstrate Whistler’s hosting capabilities to ensure that this is a net plus in a big way for Whistler’s reputation," said Wright.

Torino is still struggling with trying to secure accommodation in the mountain venues. That is not something VANOC wants to be involved in just a few months out from their Games, said Wright.

"It has been a net negative for (Torino’s) reputation," he said.

Wright said VANOC recognizes that some property owners will want to use their own accommodations to see the Games but he is concerned that they may regret staying out of the Olympic inventory in the long run.

He pointed to the experience of some properties in Park City, a 2002 Winter Games venue. In the end many rooms sat empty because owners decided too late they wanted to rent out their accommodations.

"It is all avoidable and the upside is huge," said Wright. "But we need the support of the owners to get behind the property managers and the strata council."

For many owners the Games are just too far away to commit to at this time.

To date 11,000 rooms have been secured in Vancouver with all the major properties in the downtown on board. Organizers need 15,000 rooms in the city.

Most properties will have some rooms available to book for regular guests although those won’t go on sale until about a year before the Games. They will book out for whatever people will pay.

Most of the regular media will stay in all levels of hotels in Vancouver. Whistler will put up a temporary media village near Function Junction.

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