City expects tourism boost from WWII Memorial

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WASHINGTON -- Even for this city, which is accustomed to the opening of major historical monuments, it will be one for the books.

On Memorial Day weekend, Washington joined President George W. Bush in dedicating a new monument honoring the "Greatest Generation," the men and women who served in World War II.

The National World War II Memorial's debut precedes by less than a week the 60th anniversary of the pivotal D-Day offensive in Normandy that led to, among other things, the liberation of France in 1944.

"This is a huge, huge event for us, similar to a [presidential] inauguration," William Hanbury, president and CEO of the Washington DC Convention and Tourism Corp. (WDCCTC), said.

Hanbury said about 200,000 people typically attend Memorial Day events on the National Mall each year. Last week, he was predicting that the opening of the monument would draw "probably three times as many."

"We are anticipating that Washington is going to get a big boost this summer because of the memorial," he said.

The city began celebrating Memorial Day weekend on May 27. On May 29, President Bush dedicated the monument, configured as two, facing half-circles in the center of the National Mall between the Capitol and the Washington Monument. It is located just steps from the Korean Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Lincoln Memorial.

Hanbury said he had a "huge weekend" planned, with a series of events taking place all around the city.

But the city isn't stopping there.

"We are going to have 100 days of arts, culture and history events around the Capitol region [through Sept. 7] that pay tribute to the Greatest Generation," Hanbury said.

The event, "America Celebrates the Greatest Generation," will encompass as many as 140 World War II-related events, according to the WDCCTC.

"Places like the Smithsonian, the Kennedy Center, the Library of Congress and the National Archives are all doing programs that are specific to the Greatest Generation theme," he said.

Additionally, local hotels are offering packages centering on the World War II Memorial and related events. (See accompanying story.)

The monument opened at a time when Washington's tourism industry is soaring.

For instance, in April the city had one of its best months in terms of hotel occupancy and visitation.

And although exact figures are not yet available, Hanbury predicts April will go down as the best month ever for the city's tourism industry. According to the WDCCTC, occupancy levels in April were at 84%, compared with 75.2% in April 2003.

Although the city got a boost from the annual Cherry Blossom Festival as well as from hosting several major conventions, Hanbury said another factor is working in Washington's favor.

"The American public is traveling again," Hanbury said. "I think there is some pent-up demand for Washington."

At the same time, Washington appears to be benefiting from a renewed sense of patriotism in the country.

"We happen to be the stewards of many of these symbols and institutions that best represent our freedom and democracy. People are coming here to visit and see those things," Hanbury said.

Add that to the opening of the World War II monument and the city could be poised to have one of its best summers ever.

"All of the interest around the National World War II Memorial has been very positive for us," Hanbury said.

To contact reporter Michael Milligan, send e-mail to [email protected].

Plans with a patriotic theme

WASHINGTON -- The following is a sampling of Washington hotel packages, valid to Sept. 7. Some are priced from $99.

• The Washington Terrace Hotel's Special Allied Package starts at $139 and includes continental breakfast and transportation to the World War II Memorial.

• The Hotel Helix's Greatest Generation package is priced at $139 per night. Guests who stay two nights get the third night free.

• The Carlyle Suites Hotel's Summer Patriot room rates start at $99 per room, per night, including breakfast for two.

• Savoy Suites Georgetown's Summer Patriot rate starts at $99 per room, per night.

• The Fairmont Washington DC's Patriot Package is priced from $199 per night and includes a welcome gift, full American breakfast and a sightseeing tour.

For more information on these and other packages, contact the Washington DC Convention and Tourism Corp., (202) 789-7000. Information is also available on the Web at www.washington.org/americacelebrates. -- M.M.

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