NEW YORK: "It's up to you" - The city that never sleeps is losingeven more sleep shoring up its tourism industry. Allen Houston reports

America may have lost its innocence on September 11, but for New

York City, its cultural and financial heart, there is a far more prosaic

potential loss to be dealt with: its $17 billion tourism

industry.



In fact, NYC's reemergence over the past decade has come in part from a

booming tourist industry that has grown thanks to Mayor Giuliani's

aggressive clean-up of the city and its decreasing crime rate. But now,

the New York tourism industry faces its greatest challenge: convincing

people that it is safe to visit the Big Apple.



If unsuccessful, the effects on the city's economy will soon become

apparent.



The Fiscal Policy Institute estimates that the city stands to lose

around 11,900 jobs in the restaurant industry, and 8,000 theater jobs.

The hotel industry will lose another 4,500 jobs (capacity fell to 35%

percent in the week after the tragedy), and five Broadway shows have

already closed.



Clearly, New York needs a massive injection of traveler confidence -

exactly the kind of job that public relations was made for (and which

helped resuscitate Egypt's tourism industry after terrorist attacks in

1997 - see sidebar). But this is a tough sell, given the volatile

political environment and the public's inclination to stay home.



Who's luring visitors



The job of spearheading the campaign to attract tourists falls to The

New York Convention and Visitors Bureau (NYC&Co), a body composed of

13,000 members including hotels, restaurants, attractions, and

convention centers.



NYC&Co 's first step was to establish a toll-free hotline so that

visitors and businesspeople could find out what was open and closed. The

group also changed the homepage of its website to provide updates on

what was happening in the city, and held emergency talks with volunteer

PR and advertising agencies in the wake of the attacks to work out a

response.



"It's been a very delicate communications issue," admits Keith Yazmir,

spokesperson for NYC&Co. "Our first mission was to balance the images of

Ground Zero and the horrible act of terrorism with a message that showed

New York City was not destroyed and smoldering."



The difficulty is that no tourist organization can say with certainty

that the city is 100% safe. But they can publicize trips made by people

who have no intention of letting the terrorists put them off of visiting

the city. "We can't tell people that the city is safe. We have no

credibility in that area," says Yazmir. "But pitching stories of people

having a good time in the city is a way that we can show people that

Manhattan is safe." A story that was broadcast on CNN and Good Morning

America, and covered in The New York Times late last month followed 90

senior citizens from Rochester, MN who journeyed to the city to bring a

mug to Mayor Giuliani.



They were seen going to museums, Broadway shows, and hotels, and just

walking around the city.



Early on, Giuliani played a crucial part in helping bring tourism back

on track. NYC&Co worked closely with his office to have the mayor

deliver a message that would encourage people to visit the city. During

a press conference broadcast on all of the major networks, Giuliani

addressed the issue of raising the tourism industry from the ashes: "I

encourage people from all over the country who want to help. I have a

great way of helping; come here and spend money," he said. "Go to a

restaurant, a play - you might actually have a better chance of getting

tickets to The Producers now if you want to come here and see it. The

life of the city goes on."



Tourism equals patriotism



Patriotism is an integral element in the effort to revive the city's

tourist industry. "Coming to New York is not only an important economic

gesture, but an important gesture of solidarity for the country. It's

also an act of defiance," says Yazmir.



$40 million has been invested in the "I love New York" TV

campaign starring Robert DeNiro, Liza Minneli, and Regis Philbin to

engender those patriotic feelings.



"There is a strong sense of pride in New York right now that can be

leveraged," says Jennifer McGuire, account supervisor for Northlich

Public Relations and a former PR staffer at NYC&Co. "If consumers

believe they are doing their part by spending money in New York as the

mayor suggested, visiting New York could become a patriotic rallying

cry."



Building corporate alliances



With the airlines also hurting from a lack of leisure fliers, it's been

in their interests to help encourage passengers to fly to New York.



Delta Airlines is planning to run a contest to give away 10,000 free

tickets to the city, and is using a multi-pronged communications effort

to give away the tickets: In addition to sending tickets to local radio

stations, the airline has also partnered with Crown Plaza and

Intercontinental Hotels in New York City. Delta will also hold spot

drawings for free tickets on its website, and will have a contest that

will invite people to send in postcards from their hometowns, telling

why they want to go to New York. Delta has even been named the official

airline partner of NYC&Co, indicating that creating alliances is a prime

tactic for rebuilding the New York tourism industry.



Other groups have also pitched in. The American Association of Travel

Agents (AATA) has moved its annual meeting from Seville, Spain to New

York City. The Association of American Magazine publishers also moved

its annual meeting to New York.



As the top tourist attraction in the city, it is appropriate that

Broadway has been the most active in trying to attract people to the

city. The League of American Theaters and Producers (LATP) has formed a

campaign that includes print, radio, and television commercials

featuring the cast of every Broadway show singing New York, New York.

Broadway has also been rolling out its big-name actors in the media to

preach the gospel that New York is open for business.



Museums band together



Museums got together in the days after the attacks, and agreed to open

their doors for free the first weekend. Subsequently, individual venues

have worked hard to bring back their visitors. The Metropolitan Museum

of Art and the American Museum of Natural History have targeted media

outlets in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York to encourage people to

make the short trip into the city, as over half of the people who visit

New York museums come from those three states. The American Museum of

Natural History has been targeting two of its new exhibits to people

outside the city, heavily promoting its pearl and annual live butterfly

exhibits.



"This is an important mission," says Ann Canty, spokesperson for the

Museum of Natural History. Our purpose is to look at world culture, and

I think that's become more important than ever."



The Metropolitan Museum of Art has mounted free concerts and poetry

readings, reflecting its place at the core of New York cultural life.

"I've been on the phone constantly," says Harold Holzer, VP of

communications for the Met. "I never thought I'd see the day that I'd

actually be glad to respond through e-mail."



"Culture represents the complete opposite of what happened," says

Yazmir.



"It's the best our city has to offer. People desperately want to

distract themselves right now, so I think these venues play an important

part in letting people know that it's okay to go out and enjoy

themselves."



However, getting people to come to New York City in the immediate future

may be the easy part, say tourism insiders. NYC&Co has longer-term

worries on its mind, such as what will happen to the New York tourist

industry if the United States launches a military retaliation for the

September 11 attacks.



But for now, much like Broadway itself, success lies in revival.



HOW EGYPT GOT ITS TOURISTS BACK



58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians were killed in Luxor in November

1997, in a particularly brutal attack by the Al-Gamma extremist

group.



It couldn't have come at a worse time - right before the peak winter

season, it had a fierce effect on the country's tourism industry. Just

577,000 people made the trip to Egypt during the following January and

February - down 60% from the same period the year before.



Like the current situation in New York, tourists stayed away because of

the fear of more attacks. Egyptian authorities knew that to resuscitate

their tourist industry they would have to show that the country was

safe.



Early in 1998, the Embrace Egypt initiative was formed by a group of

businesspeople keen to promote the improved security measures, aiming to

get Egypt back into the brochures of foreign tour operators. They hired

Edelman to communicate these changes in the key markets of the US, the

UK, Germany, and Italy. The agency introduced the following

initiatives:



- Compiled a Friends of Egypt database for dissemination of information

about security arrangements and the tourist industry - including tour

operators, travel agents, and government and business groups.



- Sent a high-profile delegation of international statesmen with

diplomatic, foreign affairs, and security expertise from the key markets

to provide an independent assessment of the security situation.



- Undertook a national trade and consumer media relations campaign in

each country. Included by-lined articles by members of the delegation,

media roundtables, interviews with Egyptian security personnel, and

journalist familiarization trips.



The first major UK tour charters returned to Egypt in May 1998. Of all

the tour operators who left Egypt following the Luxor incident, all

except one returned it to their brochures by the end of that year.



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