NEW YORK – As the torch nears Salt Lake City and athletes from all over the world prepare to give the performance of a lifetime, tickets and accommodations for the Winter Games are still available — much to the dismay of travel agents and ticket brokers.
Olympic officials are calling sales "robust," but on the other side of the fence brokers and travel agents, many of whom bet heavily on these Olympics, are feeling the heat as the opening date of Feb. 8 approaches.
“They scared people off,” said Kathy Derham of Wasatch Tickets, a broker attempting to sell $200,000 in tickets. “We’re getting killed on these games.”
While the Salt Lake Olympic Committee is satisfied with overall ticket sales — it sold approximately 88 percent of their tickets and are sold out of 78 events — many ticket brokers feel Olympic officials didn’t do enough to promote the games and squash the idea that good tickets and lodging are hard to find.
A number of travel professionals still have hotel rooms in their stock and many privately owned condos at local ski areas have vacancies. A multitude of homes in Utah are still being offered up for rent and the prices have been plummeting.
Travel agent Steve Tokita said ticket brokers are “begging us to find customers” and are “trying to minimize their losses instead of making the big Olympic buck.”
Shrewd travelers can take advantage of the lack of overwhelming interest in the Olympics to snag last-minute deals, many say. Scalping is legal in Utah and brokers are planning to open storefronts in Salt Lake City.
“I am hearing of more and more folks who are booking wide-open and affordable flights into Salt Lake City, snapping up a wide options of tickets, and enjoying reasonable deals on condos in Park City," Mark Bennett, media relations manager for the Utah Travel Council, said.
"Last-minute travel, more prevalent in the post 9-11 era, is certainly a viable option for these Winter Games,” Bennett said in an e-mail.
Not only are accommodations still available and becoming more affordable, tickets to the games can still be found.
“We still have tickets for 89 events available, mostly cross country skiing and the preliminary rounds of men’s and women’s ice hockey,” Jeanne Shaw, media relations manager for the Salt Lake Olympic Committee, told FOXNews.com.
Sold-out events include all snowboarding competitions, freestyle moguls and aerials at Deer Valley, men's bobsled events, and the men's and women's giant slalom ski races held at Park City Mountain Resort.
Tickets are available for purchase online, www.olympics.com, and a recent check of the site found tickets available for the men's ice hockey bronze medal game on Feb. 23, for $225 or $325 each, depending on seat location.
Tickets for the highly hyped opening and closing ceremonies are also available — to those with fat wallets. Tickets range from $320 to $885 each.
Customers can also bid for desired tickets on ebay.com. Shaw said that the bidding is going very well. “One pair of men’s figure skating tickets for the gold medal round sold for $11,100 on ebay," she said. The funds raised, over the face value of the ticket, will benefit the Para Olympics.
“Sales surged after the New Year. I think it’s because the excitement is building as we get closer," said Shaw. Her words are reflected in the numbers — in December an average of 868 tickets, totaling $92,000 was sold daily. In January, the daily sales jumped to approximately 1,800 tickets sold.
"People will buy tickets up to the very day," Shaw said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.