BOSTON-The echoes of last week’s terror attack could be felt in almost every sector in those frightening first days succeeding the deadly crashes, but as the process of picking up the pieces begins, there are fears that the attack will have longer-term impacts on the local hotel and tourism industries.
With the airports closed last week, conventions were cancelled, as were hundreds of hotel reservations. “The immediate impact was very bad,” Art Canter, executive director of the Massachusetts Lodging Association, tells GlobeSt.com, noting that the impact is still being felt. “People are canceling conventions, meetings and flights are already backed up.” Canter notes that one hotel he had just spoken to tells him that they are going to lose a significant amount of business. “We were already dealing with an economic slowdown,” he points out. “Now some airlines are cutting 50% of their flights and others are cutting 20 to 25% of their flights. We are envisioning that will be a significant drop in hotel business. I think people are going to be very cautious about travelling. Many people are afraid.”
A number of shows and conventions were cancelled at the Hines Convention Center here but Andy Antrobus, spokesperson for the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority is quick to emphasize that the concerns were less about security and more about the fact that people simply couldn’t get here. “We haven’t heard a negative word yet for things that have been booked,” he tells GlobeSt.com. “We are in the process of confirming future bookings.” Antrobus also says that the proposed convention center currently going up here in South Boston will not be affected by last Tuesday’s terror attacks. “The steel is going up on both wings,” he says. “The project is moving forward.” Pat Moscaritolo, executive director of the Greater Boston Convention and Vistors Bureau, agrees that the planned center will probably not be impacted by the recent cancellations because it is booking so far into the future. “The Center is not opening until 2004,” he tells GlobeSt.com. “They are selling into 2007, even 2010. We’re talking a long-term view here. Hopefully, the industry will recover by then.”
Antrobus points out that while leisure travelers are less likely to pursue their travels, businesspeople have no choice. “Things have changed now but I don’t know how far back we can turn the clock,” he says. “Travel and staying in other cities is critical for commerce.” But Antrobus acknowledges, “Businesses like ours will feel a significant hit if people do remain captive psychologically.”
Moscaritolo worries that without a bailout of the airline industry, things will get much worse here. “Around 70% of our convention and corporate attendees come by air,” he points out. “Some carriers are talking about bankruptcy and canceling flights.” Even with a bailout, Moscaritolo says that the hotel industry is bracing for a tough year. “It wasn’t going to be a good year already,” he says. We were already down in terms of 2000 occupancy. This does not help in what was already going to be a difficult year. This will be the first year in six years that we will report a loss.” But, Moscarotolo adds, “We can deal with this. What happened there in New York and Washington, that’s horrific.”