N.Y. eyes modest gains from GOP convention

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NEW YORK -- With the Republican National Convention just a week away, some travel-related businesses have lowered their expectations for an economic windfall from the four-day event. Still, the convention will be far from a bust.

At least its not expected to be as disappointing as last months Democratic National Convention in Boston, which reportedly yielded $14.8 million overall for the city, or a tenth of what city officials had predicted.

PricewaterhouseCoopers is predicting the citys hotels will be 87% full from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2 when the convention is in town. Thats an 18% improvement from the 73.7% occupancy during the comparable week last year.

The city has blocked some 22,000 hotel rooms, or 186,000 room nights, for the 50,000 anticipated convention-goers. Thats about 10 times as many room nights as the typical convention held in New York, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The convention is not going to materially change our rates; maybe well be up by just 5%, to about $180, said Vijay Dandapani, chief operating officer of Apple Core Hotels.

Its going to be somewhat of a wash. Although hotels will have new business because of the convention, a lot of regular tourists arent going to come because the convention is in town, Dandapani said.

Cristyne Nicholas, president of NYC & Co., the citys tourism marketing group, said, Keep in mind the convention is happening during the slowest part of the season. If the Republican convention werent coming to town, we probably wouldnt have other business taking its place.

Unlike Boston, which turned away two shows worth about $100 million, New York did not turn away business to make room for the RNC, Nicholas said.

The city, meanwhile, is doing all it can to keep local enterprises in the black. In a first for a national political convention, NYC & Co. launched a discount promotion for the sanctioned protesters who will descend on the city to trumpet their causes.

The Peaceful Political Activists promotion includes discounts on attractions, restaurants, hotels and sightseeing for such protesters.

Special buttons will be given to these organizations for distribution to its members. The buttons will also be available at the citys Visitor Information Center at 810 Seventh Ave. at 53rd Street and visitor information kiosks located at the southern tip of City Hall Park at Broadway and Park Row and on 125th Street at Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard. 

In addition, the citys popular Summer Restaurant Week promotion, which has nearly 200 restaurants offering prix-fixe, three-course lunches and dinners at reduced prices, was extended through Labor Day. It originally was set to end on July 2.

The city also is promoting a Summer Breaks campaign, with discounts at hotels, Broadway shows, cultural attractions and sightseeing tours for customers who pay with their American Express card.

For convention delegates, NYC & Co. recruited more than 400 businesses from all five boroughs to participate in a Come Early, Stay Late promotion from Aug. 22 to Sept. 8.

As part of the promotion, all 43 convention hotels are extending their convention rates through Sept. 8. The idea, said NYC & Co., is to get delegates and their families to turn their visit into a vacation.

To contact reporter Jorge Sidron, send e-mail to [email protected].

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