Although the city officially says bookings for the existingconvention center remain strong through December 2002, therecertainly has been a significant decline in the aftermath of theattack on the Pentagon and New York's former World Trade Centercomplex. "For the month of September, we would project and be ableto do 75% [occupancy]," Peter Austin, general manager of OmniShoreham, tells "We're going to wind up with the lowto mid 40s," Austin says. Austin is among those who hope his calls,and others, will "convey the fact we think Washington is a verysafe place for meeting and conventions; let them know that we'rehere for business." The Omni Shoreham, at 2500 Calvert St. NW, has836 rooms and 100,000 sf of meeting space, which can accommodate upto 2,000 people.

The mayor has emphasized tourism through fighting to support thecity's hotel industry and pushing for the re-opening of RonaldReagan National Airport, just across the Potomac River inArlington. However, Austin says hotels like his need business frommeetings, groups and conventions. He says about 20% of the OmniShoreham's business is leisure-oriented. The city and all its majorhotels were seriously hurt when the International Monetary Fund andWorld Bank decided not to hold its fall meeting at the end ofSeptember. The meeting would have brought thousands from around theworld to Washington, along with thousands of protesters. Theprotesters still came, but rallied against war last weekend. Austinsays October is an even bigger month for meetings, typicallygenerating 80% occupancy for a conference hotel like Omni Shoreham.Other general managers scheduled to attend the event included MarcEllin, of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Brad Edwards of the RenaissanceWashington, and William Edwards of the Hilton Washington andTowers.

The mayor has created several task forces to work out variouseconomic-development issues related to the aftermath of theterrorist attacks. Chris Bender, spokesman for the mayor's Officeof Economic Development, tells the city has noimmediate plans to alter its 14.5% hotel tax to assist hotels,although that might be an issue raised in the task force meetings.Austin also says he has not heard any discussion of that idea, butadds that the city's hotel association is probably be the mostappropriate group to consider such an idea.

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