The hard numbers show a rebound in occupancies in many locations. While New York occupancies had dipped into the 25 percent to 35 percent range in the immediate days after Sept. 11, they were back up to 54.6 percent by the end of September. "On the most basic level, business appears to be coming back," reported Mark Lomanno, president of Smith Travel Research. Before 9-11, STR had projected a year-end nationwide occupancy rate of 63.7 percent, which it has since lowered to 60.7 percent—a substantial impact, but, if it holds at anywhere near that level, not a devastating one.
In early October, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Delta Airlines Chairman and C.E.O. Leo F. Mullin, American Society of Travel Agents President Richard Copland and New York City tourism chief Cristyne Nicholas announced initiatives to reinvigorate that city’s meetings and tourism industries, including providing 10,000 free inbound airline tickets to New York. Copland announced that ASTA was joining four other large meetings in relocating from previously booked cities to New York. Other organizations vowed to move forward with events that would have an immediate economic impact of nearly $200 million. Among the events relocating to New York were Meeting Planners International, which switched its Oct. 27 MPI Foundation Meeting from Colorado to the New York Hilton and Towers, and Microsoft, which held the Oct. 25 kickoff of its new Windows system XP in Times Square and Rockefeller Center as scheduled.
Picking up on the theme of patriotic unity, NYC & Company’s three-year-old marketing campaign, traditionally know as Paint the Town Red, will now be called Paint the Town Red, White and Blue."The message is the same as the one Mayor Giuliani has already put out so eloquently—that coming to New York is the best thing you can do to show your support for New York, and to show solidarity," said Keith Yazmir, spokesperson for NYC & Company, the city’s convention and visitors bureau.
In Washington, Brian Ullman, director of marketing and communications for the Washington, D.C., Convention and Tourism Corporation, reported seeing more meeting dates being rescheduled than cancelled. "People are coming in as a patriotic gesture," he said. "We want to see that feeling spread to the meeting industry. There’s no time like now and the coming weeks and months to come to Washington to show support and unity."
News was similar regarding the attacks’ impact on meetings business in other cities. In Philadelphia, four conventions scheduled to before the end of September were directly affected. According to the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, Primavera systems, scheduled for Sept. 13-15, cancelled outright; National Rural Water (Sept. 15-20) voted to go on with its event, but cancelled because attendees could not fly in due to the air-travel shutdown; the Corporate Council on Africa (Sept. 16-20) posponed its U.S.-Africa Summit to Oct. 30; and Bentley Systems (Sept. 21-28) tentatively rescheduled for June 2002. The bureau reported that remaining 2001 events were holding to their schedules, as were all events scheduled for 2002—including 27 citywide conventions.
In Orlando, where Disney World was immediately shut down when news of the attacks reached Florida, there was "a wave of cancellations," according to Orlando Convention and Visitors Bureau President William Peeper.
"The encouraging thing is that more than 60 percent of the groups who cancelled are now in discussions about rebooking—obviously, we’re very pleased about this," Peeper said. "We’re also pleased by some early indicators that attendance may be finding its way back. It’s easy for us to get trapped in protracted doldrums—it’s and understandable and appropriate mindset—but there are positive out there. I don’t want to sound insensitive—I’ve shed more than a few tears over this thing—but I hope we as a country don’t become hostages to a tragedy that’s impacted us all so enormously. We’ve got to get back to the ‘new normal,’ whatever that might be."