spoke with Terry Dale, executive vice president, and Nell Barrett, senior vice president, communications, NYC & Company, to get the convention and visitors bureau's perspective on how New York City is handling the September 11 crisis.
AM: What keeps you going during this terrible time?
Barrett: It was a tragedy and shock of unbelievable proportions, but the spirit of humanity, of compassion, of strength, and of worldwide support that surrounded New York has been incredible.
Dale: People from around the world have been reaching out to us, asking what they can do in terms of raising money, or sending labor and supplies.
AM: How did New York's hospitality industry respond?
Barrett: While power and access were a challenge, the downtown hotels played a key role to aid relief workers.
Dale: The midtown hotels also were incredible. They set up ballrooms and meeting rooms with cots for those who no longer had rooms in the downtown area. It was a massive undertaking, but they just dropped everything and did what needed to be done.
Barrett: The hotels all banded together in a unified effort to offer special “distressed” rates and services to help those in need. They offered complimentary rooms for victims' families, and for emergency rescue workers. It was an all-hands-on-deck situation. Restaurants, from fast-food to the more upscale establishments, did everything they could to get food delivered to central rescue points and to hospitals. I can't single out any specific suppliers, because everyone did everything possible to help.
AM: How did you handle the groups that were meeting in New York Sept. 11?
Dale: We wanted to reach out immediately to groups in the city to find out what we could do to assist them, such as helping a small corporate meeting get buses to drive them to their homes in Toronto. But some of the groups helped us more than we helped them.
For example, there was a group of medical doctors and nurses, sponsored by the University of Washington in Seattle, meeting at the Brooklyn Marriott. As soon as they heard about the attacks, they adjourned their the meeting and became part of the rescue mission. That was the kind of rallying spirit we experienced.
AM: Have you had many groups cancel their meetings or trade shows, both short- and long-term?
Dale: Over the course of the two weeks following the tragedy, people did cancel for the most part. But people on our October calendar were still saying they wanted to be here. One group that was booked for mid-October not only still wanted to meet — they also wanted to donate a portion of the proceeds to the Twin Towers Fund that was established by New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani to aid the victims' families and rescue workers.
That's a universal theme we've been hearing. Groups like PCMA and ASAE got to us almost immediately, saying that they want to reach out to their memberships to raise funds to help.
For meetings through the rest of this year, we let them know that we'll be their point of contact. They will have a lot of questions, and we're going to the do the best we can to provide them with timely information. We do want them to hold back on making any quick decisions until they have all the information. If they should decide they want to reschedule, then we're here to help them do that.
Barrett: People are asking if they should still come to New York City. One of the resounding messages we want to get out there is that now more than ever, every visitor counts. We stocked our Web site (www.nycvisit.com) with hotline numbers, information on donations, hotels availability, all sorts of information. We also established a hotline, (888) 805-4040, people can call for immediate assistance, information on future visits, hotel and other accommodations, and how people can contribute to relief efforts.
There's a real determination to get back on our feet as soon as possible. We are determined to be even stronger after this. Terrorism will not be able to achieve its desired effect here.