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
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
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
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.