Park City, UT August 30 (AP)--Owners of hotels, homes and condos hope the 2002 Winter Olympics will bring a windfall in rental profits, while Olympic organizers have taken aggressive steps to discourage gouging.
Experts in the field caution that hotel owners betting on raking in tourist dollars could be left empty-handed.
The Salt Lake Organizing Committee already has locked up 19,000 of the 21,000 beds it will need for athletes, sponsors and others in 2002.
In quiet deals with scores of hotels and property managers in the past two years, SLOC has inked contracts limiting what Olympic visitors can be charged.
John Sindelar, director of accommodations for SLOC, said the committee has not yet considered contracting with private homeowners. He expects most of the 70,000 visitors who will come to the games each day to stay with family and friends.
Prior games in Atlanta and Calgary also tried to control the market.
The standard SLOC arrangement sets a rate about 50 percent higher than the properties charged at the peak of the winter ski season in 1997-98.
``We could've done better,'' said Russ Olsen, general manager of the Stein Eriksen Lodge in Park City. ``On the other hand, we wanted to be part of the Olympic movement and help out.''
Forty-five of the lodge's 130 rooms have been claimed by SLOC at rates ranging from $750 to $1,350 a night.
But Stein Eriksen is one of Park City's most expensive properties. Even in boom times, hotel rates in the area averaged closer to $250.
About 4,500 of Park City's roughly 5,000 condos have yet to be corralled by SLOC. But in the neighboring Heber Valley, site of biathlon and cross-county events, a scarcity of commercial lodging led to speculation that homeowners could make thousands renting out their homes during the 17-day Olympics.
Carolyn Hogwood, founder of a Heber Valley business catering to the Olympic-speculation market, said she signed up about 10 homeowners and fielded numerous queries from abroad asking about housing availability.
She hasn't inked any contracts, but believes homeowners might be able to charge as much as $200 a night per person.
In Park City, most hotels are similarly booked by SLOC.
But Robyn Pearson, economic-development director for Wasatch County, said research of Olympics in Atlanta, Calgary and Nagano shows some who tried to make money on the games were disappointed.
That was the case in Atlanta, said Bill Howard, vice president of marketing, tourism and communications for the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau.
``The anticipated need didn't happen,'' he said. ``Most people who put quite a bit of money into short-term corporations to market private homes ended up losing their butts.''
But Hogwood said Atlanta is different because of its size and hotel base, and that Calgary is a better comparison.
Jerry Joynt, vice president of communications for the Olympic Calgary Committee, said private homeowners near venues cashed in on the Olympics.
``It happened, definitely, in Calgary,'' he said.
Copyright © 1999 The Associated Press