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WASHINGTON, DC-District Mayor Anthony Williams and other high-profile hotel officials are trying to drum up convention and tourism business for the city, which has declined significantly since the attack three weeks ago. Late Monday, the mayor and general managers from 10 major city hotels were expected to gather at the Washington Convention Center for the purpose of contacting conference and convention planners to encourage them to come to Washington.

Although the city officially says bookings for the existing convention center remain strong through December 2002, there certainly has been a significant decline in the aftermath of the attack on the Pentagon and New York’s former World Trade Center complex. “For the month of September, we would project and be able to do 75% [occupancy],” Peter Austin, general manager of Omni Shoreham, tells GlobeSt.com. “We’re going to wind up with the low to mid 40s,” Austin says. Austin is among those who hope his calls, and others, will “convey the fact we think Washington is a very safe place for meeting and conventions; let them know that we’re here for business.” The Omni Shoreham, at 2500 Calvert St. NW, has 836 rooms and 100,000 sf of meeting space, which can accommodate up to 2,000 people.

The mayor has emphasized tourism through fighting to support the city’s hotel industry and pushing for the re-opening of Ronald Reagan National Airport, just across the Potomac River in Arlington. However, Austin says hotels like his need business from meetings, groups and conventions. He says about 20% of the Omni Shoreham’s business is leisure-oriented. The city and all its major hotels were seriously hurt when the International Monetary Fund and World Bank decided not to hold its fall meeting at the end of September. The meeting would have brought thousands from around the world to Washington, along with thousands of protesters. The protesters still came, but rallied against war last weekend. Austin says October is an even bigger month for meetings, typically generating 80% occupancy for a conference hotel like Omni Shoreham. Other general managers scheduled to attend the event included Marc Ellin, of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Brad Edwards of the Renaissance Washington, and William Edwards of the Hilton Washington and Towers.

The mayor has created several task forces to work out various economic-development issues related to the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. Chris Bender, spokesman for the mayor’s Office of Economic Development, tells GlobeSt.com the city has no immediate 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, but adds that the city’s hotel association is probably be the most appropriate group to consider such an idea.

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