SBD/January 2, 2014/Olympics

Tour Operators See Slow Business For Sochi Due To Logistical Issues, Threat Of Violence

Sponsors are not pulling out of the Games in the wake of recent bombings
Tour operators said that "even before the terror attacks in Volgograd, sports fans' concerns about price, logistics, lack of quality lodging and Russia's antigay law have left demand" for the '14 Sochi Games "far below other recent Winter Games," according to Jack Nicas of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Austin-based Ludus Tours and Chicago-based Sports Traveler said that together they are "bringing roughly a third of the amount of people they brought" to the '10 Vancouver Games. Sports Traveler said that it is "bringing just 50 people to the Sochi Games" compared with about 250 people in '10 and 350 people for the '08 Beijing Games. Sports Traveler Founder & Owner Anbritt Stengele said the Sochi Games have been "by far the most difficult and challenging Olympics for us." She added, "I thought it was going to be interesting because of the location, but the location has turned into a problem because of the cost of getting there and the lack of high-quality lodging." Tour operators said that the visa process has "also been more complicated than past Olympics." Stengele said, "Every Russian consulate is different. Our Canadian and Japanese customers had to come up with all sorts of stuff ... yet for our American guests, none of that's been required" (WSJ.com, 12/30).

SPONSORS SPOOKED? AD AGE's Michael McCarthy reported sponsors "won't pull out" of the Games in the wake of the bombings. Foreign Policy Research Institute's Center for the Study of Terrorism co-Chair Edward Turzanski said, "I'd be hard-pressed to understand a sponsor that withdraw their support from the Games. There would be a PR cost to that. You wouldn't be bathing yourself in glory by pulling out." However, McCarthy noted the attacks could "scare off some corporate attendees, cause cancellations of planned events at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, or lead advertisers to channel their event dollars to more arms'-length social or digital marketing around the games" (ADAGE.com, 12/30).
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