In the Hot Seat: Cristyne Nicholas

Cristyne Nicholas, president and CEO of NYC & Co., New York's tourism marketing organization, spoke with senior editor Jorge Sidron about the city's preparations for hosting the Republican National Convention this summer.

Q: The Republican National Convention will be held in New York for the first time this summer. What does the city stand to gain from hosting the event?

A: In purely economic terms, the convention is expected to generate over $150 million. From a tourism standpoint, we gain a tremendous opportunity to market the city to many first-time visitors or visitors who might not have been predisposed to come to an urban center like New York. The free publicity will be incalculable.

Q: The convention also presents special challenges, including security for the nearly 50,000 people expected to attend. How prepared is the city to keep convention-goers safe?

A: There is no city that's more prepared in terms of security than New York. We successfully hosted the World Economic Forum after 9/11, arguably an even more challenging event in terms of security. And every year we host the U.N. General Assembly with over 100 heads of state, including many from regions that are in conflict. The city's police department works very closely with the FBI, and we have full confidence in these and other agencies' ability to maintain safety.

Q: The convention will be held during what is traditionally a slow period for tourism in New York. How big a financial boost will the convention be to hoteliers?

A: It's going to be huge. Hotels are traditionally about 75% full in August, with late August averaging about 68% occupancy. So the extra occupancy will help hotels tremendously. At the same time, the 20,000 hotel rooms that will be filled by conventioneers will only increase occupancy by about 15% to 20%, so obviously we'll still have room at the inn.

Q: So even with nearly 50 hotels and 20,000 rooms set aside for the convention, tourists still will find rooms?

A: We won't be displacing any visitors who want to come to the city. We encourage them to come. The prices that time of year are competitive. In addition, the city's restaurants and shops are planning promotions.

Q: Are there plans to close or restrict access to Penn Station during the convention?

A: The police commissioner said Penn Station will be open, although it might close during select periods. ... We don't anticipate closing any attractions.

Q: Are you concerned that planned protests might keep tourists away?

A: No. And I think a lot of the protesters will end up being tourists. As with the World Economic Forum, the city will provide ample opportunity for protesters to exercise their First Amendment rights, but at the same time I hope the protesters respect our city.

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