Sydney Olympics deals still available

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SYDNEY, Australia -- Those who travel here to watch the upcoming Olympic Games will find about 35 new hotels that were built for the occasion, bringing the total number of hotel rooms in the city to 34,000.

And there are plenty of hotel rooms still available for the estimated 110,000 international visitors expected, according to U.S. wholesalers and hotel officials in Sydney.

Even though 25,000 rooms were blocked off long ago to corporate sponsors of the Olympics, there still are accommodations available during the games.

In all, tourism officials are expecting up to 500,000 total visitors to descend on Sydney during the Olympics.

Olympics-watchers also will find a host of improvements to the city's tourism infrastructure, including $1.1 billion spent at the Sydney airport, a new rail link from the airport to town and a new airport freeway that skips 19 traffic lights.

As previously reported, the Olympics Committee has made 2 million unsold events tickets available on the Internet, at www.olympics.com.

Putting Olympics tickets for sale on the Web is a first for the games, which this year run from Sept. 15 to Oct. 1. In addition to the Internet, there are three tour companies selling events tickets and travel packages in the U.S.

Among them is Cartan Tours, which, until tickets became available on the Web, was the sole wholesale operator distributing Olympics tickets in the U.S. In addition to selling its own packages, Cartan sells tickets to two retail packagers, Newmans South Pacific and Inta-Aussie.

The firm's vice president, Don Williams, said the Sydney Olympics is not selling as well as past Olympics.

"We probably have to realize it's a big expenditure for people, so they are waiting to decide," he said. "I think we will come close to selling out our accommodations but not the tickets."

He said a six-night package with roundtrip air from Los Angeles and accommodations, but no events tickets, will cost about $3,000 during the Olympics. After the Olympics, however, package prices will come way down, he added.

"We have a five-night city package after the Olympics, including air, for $999," said Williams.

Australia tourism officials are expecting an additional 1.6 million international visitors will have visited the country between 1997 and 2004 as a direct and indirect result of the Olympics. Last year, the country had 4.5 million visitors.

According to Williams, Cartan is sold out of tickets and room packages from Sept. 20 through 26, but there are tickets and rooms available from Sept. 14 through 20 and Sept. 26 through Oct. 4.

He said it's cheaper to stay outside the city, for example in Katoomba, 90 minutes away. A six-night package with roundtrip air, events tickets, accommodations in Katoomba, breakfast and dinner daily and airport transfers runs $3,349 per person.

In Sydney, the price is much higher.

"You can always expect a hotel is going to at least double its price for the Olympics," said Williams.

Newmans South Pacific, one of the tour retailers selling Olympics packages with tickets from Cartan, has a package in Sydney that costs $3,129 for three nights and includes accommodations, roundtrip air from Los Angeles and tickets for up to five events.

Ruth Ridley, vice president of Newmans, said they are going to be selling packages right up to the last minute.

"We do have some rooms available during the whole Olympics period, but the period in the middle is still going to be tight," she said. "Overall, it's still very easy to get accommodations."

The other tour retailer using Cartan tickets, Inta-Aussie, is selling a six-night Sydney package with roundtrip air from Los Angeles and accommodations, but no events tickets, for $3,050. Events tickets are extra and start at $330 per person.

According to Neil James, director of Tourism New South Wales, a travel center will be set up at the Sydney airport for visitors arriving without hotel reservations and hoping for last-minute cancellations.

Also, some hotel rooms that are being released back into unblocked inventory will be given to the Tourism New South Wales wholesale department. It has a Web site at www.visitnsw.com.au.

Accor Hotels, which has 4,000 rooms in Sydney, said it has 100 rooms available at three of its lower-priced Motel Formule 1 properties in Sydney.

Those rooms go for $70 a night. And there are 100 rooms, at $148 a night, available at one of its new Ibis hotels opening at the Sydney airport Sept. 1. An Accor spokeswoman said rates at the company's many brand hotels were raised for the Olympics.

At Ibis brand hotels, the rack rate is normally $98 a night, but during the Olympics the rate will be $148 a night. And at Accor's Mercure brand, the rack rate usually is $128 a night but during the Olympics was bumped up to $214.

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