- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Area businesses have donated more than $1.14 million to the city's effort to bring visitors back to Washington as the usually busy spring and summer tourist seasons fast approach.
The biggest boosters Marriott International Inc. and the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation each contributed $500,000 to the cause.
"We are confident tourists will come back," said J.W. Marriott Jr., chief executive of the hotel empire, which has a dozen properties inside the District. "We want to increase visitation and [get] people back here sooner."
Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, the city's thriving hospitality and tourism business has taken a $1.2 billion hit. Hotel-occupancy rates dropped between 30 percent and 50 percent immediately after the attacks, while restaurateurs saw drastic decreases in overall business. Many school groups canceled their plans for D.C. visits and are still reluctant to return.
"We're bringing back the business traveler; now we have to focus on the discretionary leisure traveler," Mayor Anthony A. Williams said at a press conference yesterday at the J.W. Marriott Hotel downtown.
So far the city's efforts to drum up tourism dollars, from promotional weekends to the recent advertising campaign targeting New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Norfolk, have resulted in an uptick in business. But city officials say it's only the beginning as they get ready to greet the industry's busiest time of the year.
"There is still work to be done," said William A. Hanbury, president and chief executive of the Washington Convention and Tourism Corp. "We need additional funds and partnerships to make sure people return to Washington."
The group, which is the city's marketing arm, is in the process of officially creating a charitable foundation to assist in the city's fund-raising efforts. Mr. Hanbury says the goal is to raise between $3 million and $5 million.
In addition to Marriott, American Express has contributed $100,000 and Verizon has donated $25,000. About 40 smaller area businesses have contributed a total of $18,000. Mr. Hanbury says his group is targeting about 30 other businesses for additional financial support.
At yesterday's press conference, Mr. Williams urged the business community "to step up and make a commitment to support a key element to our city's economy."
Over the past several months, the tourism group has used more than $1 million of its own budget, $1 million from the city and $500,000 from the Washington D.C. Convention Center Authority to fund its "Be Inspired" efforts, like the two Restaurant Week promotions, as well as the recent advertising campaign.
"The last four months have not been an easy time for Washington," Mr. Hanbury said. "But people are responding to our message."
The current fund-raising efforts come as Washington's attractions get back to business as usual. The White House resumed tours for student groups last week. The Bureau of Engraving & Printing's public tours started again earlier this month. And walking tours of the FBI headquarters will resume next month.
"We have to promote the notion that Washington, D.C., is open for business," Mr. Williams said.
In another boost to the local hotel industry, a new contractual program between the General Services Administration and 38 Washington-area hotels began yesterday.
The new Federal Premier Lodging Program sets daily hotel rates in the Washington-area from $101 to $150 per night for federal workers, depending on the hotel. Each contracted hotel guarantees 5,000 available rooms annually for the government travelers. The GSA's per-diem rate for D.C. hotels before this program went into effect was $119.

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