- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 22, 2001

The District will spend as much as $2 million to market the nation's capital because its economic viability has weakened after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

District officials have formed a task force that will gauge the economic impact of the attacks, lobby for the re-opening of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and develop a comprehensive marketing campaign.

"We've come together to send a very clear message to our country: We're proud of our city," said Mayor Anthony A. Williams at a press conference yesterday at the Grand Hyatt Hotel downtown. "It's going to take some time to build up to speed again, but Washington, D.C., is open for business."

Since Sept. 11, the hospitality industry has taken a big hit as occupancy rates have dropped by 50 percent, and meetings and events have been canceled or rescheduled.

"It's not enough to be open for business in the nation's capital, you have to be open for tourism," said D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton at the press conference. "The city is as open as it was before September the 11th, but the American people don't know that."

Mrs. Norton, a Democrat and the District's nonvoting congressional representative, plans to meet with White House officials sometime next week to discuss the difficulty the city and region is having.

In addition, Mr. Williams will ask President Bush for federal assistance to help compensate for the loss to the District's economy. He doesn't know how much he will ask for or how much of an economic impact the Sept. 11 attacks have had on the city.

"This is a serious blow to our hotel industry, our restaurant industry and small businesses," Mr. Williams said.

The Washington, D.C. Convention and Tourism Corp. has committed $1 million to a new marketing effort designed to lure people back to the city.

The mayor is seeking $1 million in public funds to add to the recovery plan, which will include advertising, public relations and special events on a local and national level.

"We'll use those funds specifically to market Washington, D.C., to the world to tourists as well as businesses," Mr. Williams said.

Officials say it's too early to start the campaign, considering most Americans are still grieving over the terrorist attacks.

"For us to spend resources now is absolutely not the right thing to do," said William A. Hanbury, president and chief executive of the Washington, D.C. Convention and Tourism Corp.

"When the American public is ready to re-emerge themselves as travelers then we'll be ready."

City and hospitality officials agree the shutdown of Reagan Airport isn't helping matters as the District is losing millions of dollars each day the airport remains closed.

"Every other airport in the United States is open," Mr. Williams said. "If National Airport is the world's door to our city, with National closed our city is shut down."

Mr. Williams said he is confident Washington's image will change.

"I'm very confident because through our history Americans have [been] resilient," he said.

"This city has the capacity to confront a challenge. This city will survive. This city will prevail."

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