- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 13, 2001

On a slight rebound since September 11, the travel and tourism industry took another blow yesterday when an American Airlines flight crashed in the Rockaway area of Queens, N.Y., likely leaving Americans even more apprehensive about traveling.
Travel and tourism officials aren't sure yet how much this event whether a terrorist act or an accident will affect leisure travelers, especially this close to the holiday season.
However, investors showed their concern as hotel and online travel stocks dropped during yesterday's trading.
"This is going to play on people in such a way that they are going to stay home," said Bob Jones, airline analyst at Onetravel.com.
As of yesterday the online travel Web site did not have much business eerily similar to the day of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Mr. Jones expects that to change today when customers could start calling to cancel their trips.
"[After September 11], quite frankly we were giving more refunds than booking, and I suspect that will happen again," Mr. Jones said.
Many online travel sites, including Onetravel.com, were in the midst of a recovery that started in mid-October when travelers began booking trips again.
"If anyone was on the fence deciding if they should fly into the holiday season, I think some portion of that is going to be derailed by the crash," said Bailey Dalton, analyst at CE Unterberg Towbin. "It's unfortunate because they were starting to hit their stride."
Stocks for online travel sites Priceline, Travelocity and Expedia all tumbled yesterday. Travelocity had the biggest loss a 9.4 percent drop from Friday's closing price of $15.56.
Among the hardest hit since the September 11 attacks, the hotel industry may suffer further damage from this latest airline incident.
The slowing economy and fear of more terrorist attacks have left a "negative impact" on the hotel industry, said Jim Sullivan, managing director and senior real estate analyst at Prudential Securities Inc.
"Conditions are pretty bad, and today's crash only serves to intensify concerns," Mr. Sullivan said. "This clearly makes people nervous."
Shares of some U.S. hotel companies fell yesterday, including Marriott International Inc. and Starwood Hotels & Resorts. Marriott, based in Bethesda, had a 4.4 percent drop in stock price, closing at $32.50 per share.
Many industry officials hope the crash was due to a mechanical malfunction rather than terrorism.
"We never would have said this six months ago, but hopefully this is just an accident," Mr. Jones said.
Usually after an airplane crash there is a slight slowdown in bookings, but this time Mr. Jones expects a larger slowdown than normal. The expected slowdown will likely be worse if the crash proves to be terrorism.
Marilyn Matthews, co-owner of Washington D.C. Accommodations, a District-based hotel reservation system, doesn't believe the crash will have that much of a negative impact on consumers.

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