- The Washington Times - Monday, October 8, 2001

Local sedan, limousine and chartered bus companies are still suffering the effects of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as the region's tourism industry remains depressed.

Many student trips and conventions the staple for the success of many of the Washington area's transportation services are on hold at a time of the year that's usually one of the busiest.

Business at Bethany Limousine Service has dropped by 80 to 90 percent since the Sept. 11 attacks, says Khalil Aburish, one of the owners of the D.C.-based transportation company.

"We count on kids and tourists," Mr. Aburish says. "But people don't want to go beyond their domain because they are scared."

Bethany is even getting cancellations for trips planned next year.

The company's 13 motor coaches have not made one trip since the attacks.

"We've been hit very very heavy," says R. Neill Jefferson, owner of Blue Ridge Limousine & Tour Service in Arlington. But business is slowly starting to get back to normal, he says.

"If the phones [continue to ring], we may be able to survive," Mr. Jefferson says.

Lilian Helou, owner of Quality Tours Transport Inc. in Lorton, is optimistic about the future despite the lack of business now.

Although 95 percent of the motor coach company's student trips were canceled for the fall, Quality Tours is completely booked for the spring.

"I have a lot of hope," Mrs. Helou says.

Some transportation companies were extremely busy in the days immediately following the attacks, catering to clients who were unable to get home because of the airport closures and canceled flights.

Prime Transportation Services brought clients to places like Chicago, North Carolina, New Jersey and Connecticut.

The Oxon Hill-based company actually had its best September in its 19-year history, says owner Thomas H. Smith.

Prime Transportation had some cancellations after the attacks but the boom in business the days immediately following the attacks, as well as its high percentage of government clients, helped even out sales for the month.

Carey International Inc., a worldwide transportation company headquartered in the District, brought home more than 600 clients who were stranded after the attacks from Sept. 12 to Sept. 21. The company's rates were "at cost" which meant about a 25 percent discount for the passengers.

As a result of the attacks, Carey has started a new city-to-city service giving business travelers a chance to do work on the road.

The company's custom-made Lincoln town cars feature fold-down tables for laptops, outlets that keep cellular phones and computers charged and six inches of extra leg room.

"Carey Extended Lincoln Town Car provides a mobile office so our clients can maximize their output during travel time," says Art Kienle, senior vice president of marketing and travel industry relations for Carey, which also offers limousines, vans and mini buses.

The service is a flat rate that depends on what cities the traveler is going to and from. For example a round trip in one of the sedans from Washington to New York costs $943 and a round trip from the District to Philadelphia costs $471.

There are signs that business is returning to normal for some transportation companies.

Eyre Tour & Travel had 75 motor coaches out this past weekend.

"Bookings are coming back very strong," says Ron Eyre, president and owner of the Glenelg, Md., motor coach company. "We see a positive future."

Even the company's 65 scheduled trips to New York's Radio City Music Hall and Broadway in November and December have not been canceled.

"I think people will want to see New York by then," Mr. Eyre says.

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