- The Washington Times - Friday, January 19, 2001

Inauguration festivities are expected to pump millions of dollars into the District of Columbia's economy and have a long-term effect on the region as all eyes turn to Washington for the four-day celebration.

The money spent in the city is being passed on to hundreds of local businesses from overstuffed hotels and overbooked limousines to caterers serving dinner guests and street vendors selling patriotic pins and T-shirts.

"I think this is our Super Bowl," said John Tydings, president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. "It's a chance for the community to be on a worldwide stage."

And that could turn into future business for the region long after the last float glides down Pennsylvania Avenue tomorrow.

"The kinds of people who come here [for the inauguration] could have the potential of making decisions about hosting meetings, expanding or moving their business here," he said.

But more directly and immediately, the inauguration once every four years manages to pump enough money and activity into the city to rejuvenate businesses in January, which usually is considered a slow period for many businesses.

Hospitality and tourism officials would not give any official predictions on the economic impact, but some estimate at least $75 million will be spent over the four days based on past inaugurations.

The local tourism industry is sure to get a boost this year from the millions of viewers who tune into the inauguration and get a glimpse of the city backdrop.

"It's great advertising for the city," said Brian Ullmann, director of marketing for the Washington D.C. Convention and Visitors Association. "We'll see some spinoff business the rest of the year."

Historically, hotel occupancy during an inaugural year is up 2 percent to 3 percent from the previous year, Mr. Ullmann said.

City officials could not be reached for comment on the inauguration's economic impact on the city.

"The inauguration is a plus," said Reginald Tymus, owner of Capital City Limo Co., where business has nearly tripled because of the event. "I'll take one every year."

The D.C.-based transportation company usually operates about 40 vehicles on a daily basis. But this weekend more than 70 vehicles from limousines to minivans are booked per day and that number keeps growing, Mr. Tymus said.

Nearly 180 street vendors are registered to sell food and patriotic paraphernalia on city streets, according to the District's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

The vendors selected their locations on a first-come-first-served basis. Some of the first spaces reserved were on F Street, between 14th and 15th streets, and North Capitol Street near the U.S. Capitol.

Of course as with any outdoor event, weather is always a risky factor, especially in the dead of winter when snow or freezing temperatures are possible. During President Ronald Reagan's second inauguration, for example, cold temperatures hovering in the single digits caused many scheduled events to be canceled. This weekend, the forecast is calling for rain.

Hotels, however, are likely to rake in big bucks no matter what the weather brings.

The city's 24,800 hotel rooms many with 20 percent rate increases have filled up fast, but there are rooms still available.

The majority of the hotels in the District have an occupancy in the 90 percent range for the weekend, according to the Hotel Association of Washington D.C. During President Clinton's first inauguration in 1993, hotel occupancy hit 92 percent.

January is typically the slowest month for hotels, with occupancy rates falling to about 50 percent during a typical year. But January's hotel occupancy during an inaugural year can jump as much as 10 percent over the previous year, Mr. Ullmann said.

Capital Services Inc., an Alexandria, Va.-based destination management company, has three times the business it would during a non-inaugural January, said President Jill McGregor.

The company is working a total of 11 inaugural events this weekend more work than it's done during past inaugurations, she said.

Capital Services provided gifts for the more than 5,500 guests expected at three official candlelight dinners last night.

The company, which has 14 full-time employees, will be using all of its 80 part-time employees this weekend.

"They're happier this month, too," Ms. McGregor said.


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