Alberta charters luxury train for Vancouver Olympics

Alberta has reserved a luxury train during the Vancouver Olympics as part of a $7-million marketing plan meant to woo tourists and business executives.
The Alberta Train, seen here in digital renderings, will run between Vancouver and Whistler. ((Courtesy Alberta government))

Alberta has reserved a luxury train during the Vancouver Olympics as part of a $7- million marketing plan meant to woo tourists and business executives.

The province has exclusively booked the Rocky Mountaineer for runs between Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., between Feb 12 and 28.

"We see this as one of the hottest tickets at the Olympics," said Tourism Minister Cindy Ady.

"I haven't run across anyone who hasn't said, 'What a great idea. What a good way to promote the province.' Because it's not here in Alberta, it's out in Vancouver, right? And so you've got to do different things in order to get the attention that you want."

Although official Olympic buses will be running back and forth from Whistler, Alberta will have the only train running between the two Olympic sites. The train will be "more or less shrink wrapped in the Alberta flag" and will have promotional materials throughout, she said.

To help cover the cost of the deal, provincial officials also plan to rent out space on the Alberta Train to corporations wanting to treat customers.

The Alberta government won't provide a breakdown on how its $7-million Olympics marketing budget will be spent, but besides the train, the province is hosting a pavilion in downtown Vancouver on the busy corner of Robson and Beatty streets called Alberta House.

The facility will have a public plaza featuring artists and performances, as well as interactive screens to share information about the province with Olympic visitors.

"The other provinces all have houses as well; we just think ours is particularly well positioned and that the train will give us attention in our worldwide markets, where we have some almost $5-billion worth of tourism industry that has also been struggling," she said.

"The Olympics is not probably going to come back to Canada for another 22 years. This is Canada's Games. The world is going to be looking at us. This opportunity doesn't fall in your lap every day."

Waste of money, say Alberta Liberals

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann said wining and dining on a chartered train in B.C. isn't a good use of taxpayers' money while programs are being cut at home in Alberta.

"Why are we paying this kind of money when there are more pressing issues here?" Swann said

The government should rely on the Tourism Department to promote Alberta, he said.

"We have a hired staff to do that. Why do we need to add on to that at public expense this elite train service? And what are we going get from it? We need to know more about this."

The Alberta government inked the train deal nearly two years ago after being approached by Rocky Mountaineer before the economic downturn, said Ady. A final accounting of Alberta's Olympic push will be done after the Games, and Ady said she is confident it will be $7 million well spent.