Growing leisure travel offsets the decline in Asian business

SAN JOSE, Calif.--Increased leisure travel here has more than offset the decline in business travel caused by Asia's economic woes, according to Marian Holt, chief executive officer of the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"The tourism segment is well up on last year," Holt said, "so much so that our overall volume is higher by as much as 20%." She credited the stronger emphasis on leisure promotion, including the successful "Destination San Jose" marketing program, for the gain.

One of the effects of the slightly depressed international traffic is to make more hotel space available for tourists Mondays through Thursdays. "Right now, you can get good rooms in San Jose during the week," Holt said. "We would like travel agents to know that."

One of the factors behind the city's encouraging tourism results is a new toll-free information number, (888) SANJOSE, answered by staff who help arrange hotel accommodations, sightseeing and show tickets.

"From the agents' perspective, it's a useful number to know," Holt said, "because we know hotel availability at any given time. Whereas an agent might have to make several calls to find the kind of hotel room needed, we can book the right room--commissionable, of course--and make any other reservations that might be required. We call it our concierge service."

The city's visitor industry has benefited as well from an increase in air service from around the country. United Airlines recently began serving the San Jose market with flights to the Midwest and eastern states, and American has beefed up its nonstop flight schedule to New York (Kennedy), Boston and Washington.

"In all," Holt said, "we have some 450 flights a day in and out of San Jose, on 18 carriers." San Jose will be more accessible to international travelers when work is finished on extending one airport runway to accommodate 747 traffic.

Currently, the airport is capable of handling nothing bigger than a fully fueled L-1011, which American Airlines flies to Asia. The city's physical plant will get a huge boost with the opening this month of the Tech Museum of Innovation. (See story, below left.)Holt said it is possible that the museum could attract as many as 500,000 visitors a year to San Jose.

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