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Olympic tourism impacts fell short: report

The economic impact of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games so far is positive, a report released today says, but short of the optimistic scenario finance minister Colin Hansen has quoted.

PricewaterhouseCoopers released four reports today, the first in a series that will track the impact of the Games until 2013. As part of that work they compared the effect of preparing for the Games between 2003 and 2008 with the projections made in a 2002 report by InterVISTAS Consulting Inc..

PwC's estimates of gross domestic product and employment were close to the mid-range projected by InterVISTAS, the report said. PwC estimated the GDP impact over six years at $788 million and the employment at 18,362 person years.

For comparison, B.C.'s GDP in 2008 was $199 billion and there are roughly 2.4 million people working in the province. The Olympics, therefore, may have boosted employment in the province by 0.125 percent.

In February's budget speech Hansen said the Games will generate “as much as $10 billion” of economic activity. The government has since decreased its estimate to $4 billion, and Hansen yesterday said the impact would be “billions and billions.”

The $10-billion and $4-billion figures come from the InterVISTAS report. The larger figure includes economic activity associated with the expansion of the Vancouver Conference and Event Centre, while the second does not. Both depended on “high” tourist visits starting five years before the Games.

The Games had not boosted tourism by 2008, PwC's report said today. “The tourism strategy that was adopted focuses on leveraging the 2010 Winter Games to generate a sustained post-2010 increase in tourism rather than on gernerating pre-2010 Winter Games tourism,” the authors wrote. “No substantial spending occurred in 2003 to 2008.”

They added, “The actual tourism patterns more closely resemble the low to moderate scenarios, with little noted Olympic-related tourism activity during this period.”

PwC's Ed Mansfield said in a conference call with reporters that today's report covers a period before the effects of the global recession started. “I would expect the negative impacts would arise in our future reports.”

The PwC reports don't project the total impact of the Games. “Our role is to record what's happening rather than make a projection,” he said.

The total cost to stage the Games is estimated at between $6 billion and $7 billion.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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