- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 15, 2002

The ongoing threat of sniper attacks outside the Beltway combined with rainy weather hurt tourism in and around Washington over the holiday weekend.
"You fear that this will have a big negative effect on tourism in the city, on hospitality in the city," Mayor Anthony A. Williams said Sunday on ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos." "This is a big source of revenue."
Mr. Williams said the District has worked overtime to see that citywide events have gone on as planned, especially because insurers were worried about insuring them.
"That's a bad, bad precedent for cities," Mr. Williams said. "It's a bad, bad precedent for other areas where you depend on free travel and depend on an open community in order to do business."
The tourist business that cabdrivers had hoped to pick up over the weekend wasn't there.
"It was a holiday weekend, but I was at least three or four fares lower for Sunday than I would normally have," said Philip Lebet, part-time cabdriver and general manager for Diamond Cabs. Mr. Lebet said he usually has 10 or more $5-or-higher-trips on a Sunday afternoon.
"A lot of out-of-towners have said they're worried about coming into the city," he said. "I was glad to have the cruddy weather, since people are more likely to take a cab then. But the tourists weren't in the same numbers they normally are, and government people had the weekend off [for Columbus Day]."
Leroy Johnson, a retired Washington resident and part-time cabdriver with the American Cab Association, said his main clientele, people waiting at street corners, have thinned since the shootings began 12 days ago.
"People aren't waiting on the corner to catch a cab because they're worried about being out in the open," said Mr. Johnson, 76.
The 40-year cabdriver made $90 to $110 in fares for Saturday and Sunday, lower than his average autumn weekend of $150.
"This time of the year is slow anyway, but this whole sniper attention has spooked tourists about coming into the city, which is crazy because these shootings aren't in D.C. at all."
Attendance was down at the Taste of D.C., totaling about 225,000 for Saturday's crowd and 200,000 each for crowds on Sunday and Monday. The festival has drawn a daily crowd of 300,00 or more in past years.
But Victoria Isley, spokeswoman for the D.C. Convention and Tourism Corp., which is in charge of the event, said festival goers had expressed more concern about the weather than a shooting in the city.

Donna De Marco contributed to this report.


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