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U.S. tourism suffers in attacks' aftermath

From Paul Clinton
CNN

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Just as airlines are struggling in the aftermath of last week's terrorist attacks, popular vacation destinations across the United States have experienced a dramatic drop in tourism.

Las Vegas, Nevada, has been hit hard by the slowdown in American travel. Already, casinos are laying off hundreds of employees. Fifty percent of the city's tourists arrive by air, and while gamblers are fond of taking risks, it appears that doesn't include taking to the nation's skies just yet.

"People who want to get away for a couple of days, but aren't necessarily thrilled with the prospect of getting on an airplane, will get into a car and drive three or four hours to get to Las Vegas," said Rob Powers, vice president of the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority.

New York's tourism has been particularly hard-hit. The overall hotel occupancy rate is around 45 percent at a time when it normally would be about 75 percent, industry executives told The Associated Press. Four Broadway shows have announced they will close by the end of the week and six other plays may be in trouble, a theater official said.

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Mayor Rudy Giuliani is trying to do his part to bring tourists back.

"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.

Nation's capital loses visitors

Tourism in Washington, D.C., also has suffered. Hotel occupancy is usually 80 percent this time of year, but it has dropped to less than 50 percent.

Officials there are most concerned about the future of Ronald Reagan National Airport, which they say is vital to the city's economy. It remains closed indefinitely due to security concerns.

Los Angeles officials say tourism and conventions are down there as well.

"Yes, we are seeing some cancellations," said Michael Collins of the Los Angeles Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Toyota's annual national dealers meeting, scheduled to take place in Los Angeles next week, now has been called off. That alone has resulted in the lost revenue from thousands of empty hotel rooms.

Florida, Hawaii could suffer

All 50 states, to some extent, depend upon tourism. But the two states expected to be hurt the most are the sun-drenched destinations of Florida and Hawaii.

Hawaii's tourism is the lifeblood of the state, a multibillion-dollar industry that depends on full hotels all year long, and tourists from all over the world spending millions of dollars.

In Orlando, Florida, home of Disney World and many other amusement parks, business is down to less than 10 percent of normal in some hotels.

Back in Los Angeles at Universal Studios, tourists Bob and Marlene McVay and their children drove in from Reno, Nevada.

But will they be afraid to fly on future vacations?

"No, I don't think so," Bob McVay said, before his wife weighed in.

"I definitely think so," she said. "I think airline travel is completely out of the question these days."





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