Salt Lake City, UT, Jan. 8, 2002 (AP by Paul Foy) --Yas Tokita, owner of Mountain West Travel, ``bet the bank'' on turning a profit by snapping up Olympic tickets and hotel reservations for the 2002 Winter Games.
Now, with barely a month before the games, the resale market for Olympic tickets remains sluggish. And the slumping economy and Sept. 11 travel scare have given brokers little hope for a rebound.
Desperate to move Olympic travel packages, Tokita says he's willing to offer hotel rooms at or below cost for the Feb. 8-24 games.
As if his small travel agency wasn't hurting enough, other ticket brokers are ``begging us to find customers,'' says his son, Steve Tokita. ``They're trying to minimize their losses instead of making the big Olympic buck.''
As far as the Salt Lake Organizing Committee is concerned, ticket sales have been brisk. SLOC said months ago it sold more than 85 percent of $180 million worth of tickets. That's money in the bank for the organizers, but brokers could be left holding the bag.
Organizers say they sold $2.25 million worth of tickets to brokers. Industry sources say the figure probably is much higher, partly because SLOC doesn't always know whom it's dealing with.
Some brokers grumble that Olympic officials have done little to promote the games or counter perceptions that decent tickets and hotel rooms have become scarce.
``They scared people off,'' says Kathy Derham of Wasatch Tickets, a broker trying to move $200,000 in tickets to many popular Olympic events, including figure skating and hockey. ``We're getting killed on these games.''
That means spectators are likely to find plenty of tickets right up to the games. It's happened at other Olympics. Desperate sellers might even let some tickets go for face value -- or less.
``They're just trying to break even,'' Derham said. ``Everything is open to negotiation.''
Brokers will open storefronts in Salt Lake City, and scalping is legal in Utah. SLOC will fence off areas where individuals can get their tickets validated for resale or trade.
There's still hotel rooms in broker inventories, and organizers and corporate sponsors have been quietly relinquishing some of their hotel rights.
In Evanston, Wyo., 600 rooms once blocked out for Olympic workers and sponsors are back on sale. Evanston is 45 minutes of open highway east of Park City, possibly making for less driving time than it will take from Salt Lake City during the games.
Many privately owned condominiums at Utah ski areas also remain available, and there's no lack of Salt Lake homes on the market for Olympic rentals. Prices, which started out sky-high, are dropping fast.
Travel brokers ``took a gamble, expecting people to come,'' Steve Tokita said. ``We have a large surplus of rooms at The Canyons resort and Park City's Silver Queen hotel.''
His travel agency also can arrange Olympic bookings at 15 Deer Valley condos and 43 hotel rooms at Snowbird ski resort. Tokita said he can let some rooms go for as little as $330 a night.
Brokers can only hope for a rush of last-minute Olympic fans this month.