- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 11, 2005

President Bush’s inauguration next week is expected to pump tens of millions of dollars into the District’s economy and translate into future business for the city.

The economic effect could reach well over $100 million as visitors descend on Washington for the four-day celebration, shelling out money to hundreds of local businesses for everything from hotel rooms and limousines to souvenirs, tuxedos and ball gowns.

“This is our big shot every four years,” said Colleen Evans, a spokeswoman for the Ritz-Carlton.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee hopes to raise as much as $50 million, which will be dumped into the District to pay for the inaugural festivities.

The Washington DC Convention & Tourism Corp. (WCTC) estimates overnight visitors during the inauguration will generate about $44.6 million for the local economy. That doesn’t include the money spent by people visiting for just the day on Thursday who will ride the Metro, use the parking lots, take cabs and buy breakfast, lunch and souvenirs.

Thousands of people are expected to attend the festivities, including the swearing-in ceremony and the parade. Day visitors usually spend about $60 each during their visit, according to the WCTC.

In addition to the direct economic effect, the inauguration has a long-term effect as the world watches the District during the events, which could result in future leisure and business travel to the city.

“We are so lucky that we do a significant number of important national events whether it’s a summit, a presidential funeral, an inauguration or a state visit,” said William A. Hanbury, WCTC’s president and chief executive officer. “The inauguration is another example of the bounty that the host receives because we are the nation’s capital.”

City officials are expecting a big turnout this year despite the historical trend that a re-elected president’s second inauguration tends to be less lavish than the first.

“All in all this inaugural committee seems to be pulling out the stops more,” Ms. Evans said. “This one seems to be sexier. There’s a lot more enthusiasm about it.”

City officials expect occupancy to reach 85 percent from next Tuesday to Friday. It is welcome business during a typically slow month for the hotel industry.

Occupancy usually hovers around 52 percent in January. But that increases between 5 percent and 10 percent during inauguration years.

For the elder George Bush’s 1989 inauguration, occupancy jumped 10 percent in January. It increased by 5 percent for Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration. For Mr. Clinton’s second inaugural celebration, occupancy rose about 4 percent.

During President Bush’s first inauguration in 2001, occupancy rose 5 percent that month.

“There is just as much interest and demand as there was for the last inauguration,” said Tricia Messerschmitt, a spokeswoman for the Four Seasons Washington D.C. Hotel, which is sold out.

The Renaissance May-flower Hotel is expecting to be sold out Tuesday through Thursday. The 657-room hotel has a few vacancies left.

The inauguration will bring the upscale historical hotel about $400,000 in additional revenue that week, compared with the same week during a usual January, said Chris Madoo, director of marketing.

The weeks leading up to this inauguration are much less hectic than four years ago, when the election dragged out for 36 days, leaving just over five weeks for the hospitality industry to prepare for the city’s biggest event.

“The major difference from the last inauguration is having the ability to plan,” Mr. Madoo said.

However, hotel officials have to worry about a potential hotel strike. About 3,500 workers at 14 of the District’s hotels have threatened to strike before the inauguration if a contract settlement is not reached by Saturday.

While many of the high-endhotels are sold out, the city’s other hotels are filling up despite inflated prices and a three- or four-night minimum-stay requirement.

“I think the demand is greater,” said Marilyn Mat-thews, co-owner of Washington D.C. Accommodations, a hotel-reservation company. “In many ways this is more of a victory and people are really turned on by the prospect of the next four years.”

Ms. Matthews’ agency has been consistently busy the past several weeks finding rooms for visitors.

“The inauguration is definitely a boon for this industry,” she said.

Restaurants will see an upswing in business next week, too.

McCormick & Schmick’s on K Street in Northwest is expecting to do as much banquet business next week as it did the entire month of January last year.

The seafood restaurant will host parties for 15 to 80 people, in addition to regular lunches and dinners. Overall business will increase 10 percent to 15 percent, said General Manager Bryan King.

This inauguration could be the most expensive in America’s history. The inaugural committee is hoping to raise about $10 million more than the nearly $40 million that was used to pay for Mr. Bush’s first inauguration in 2001.

The cost of the inauguration has become progressively more expensive over the years.

Mr. Clinton’s first inaugural cost $33 million in private funds, and his 1997 inaugural committee raised $23.7 million. That’s a far cry from the $3.5 million spent on Jimmy Carter’s inauguration in 1977.

Mr. Bush’s inauguration will have nine official balls. Six of them will be staged at the nearly two-year-old convention center, eliminating some of the usual locations for the presidential galas.

But it’s good news for convention center officials, who will get a chance to showcase the 2.3-million-square-foot facility to dignitaries and national decision makers.

“It’s a great promotional opportunity to put our best foot forward at the center,” Mr. Hanbury said.

The Marriott Wardman Park Hotel will hosta week full of parties and events, despite losing one of the official balls to the convention center.

The hotel has hosted a dozen inaugural balls as far back as Herbert Hoover’s inauguration in 1929.

“We have a full plate that week,” said Sam Bonfe, director of catering/sales at Wardman Park. “While we’re sad there’s been a break from tradition, we’re plenty busy.”

An invitation-only party for 1,500 to 2,500 attendees will replace the official ball Thursday. Its signature Black Tie & Boots Ball, a high-style Texan ball for 12,000 hosted by the Texas State Society, will be held Wednesday, the night before Mr. Bush’s swearing in.

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