NYC tourism monitoring swine flu’s effects

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Outside of Mexico, New York initially reported the highest number of cases of the H1N1 virus (swine flu), and the city is looking for signs of a downturn in travel.

George Fertitta, CEO of NYC & Company (the city’s tourism promotion office), said he has seen "virtually no real response" in terms of changes and cancellations, though things seem a "little tentative for future bookings."

But Fertitta said he’s not worried yet because people are booking late these days anyway.

He said NYC & Company is in "constant contact" with its 18 international offices, which are also monitoring the markets. 

Fertitta said one of NYC’s online tour operators in Germany offered 1,000 summer trips to New York at promotional prices and sold out in two hours, showing that "a good deal trumps many fears."

He will be in Spain next week on a previously planned trip, and he expects questions about swine flu.

"We will be prepared to answer them," Fertitta said. "We are taking a business-as-usual approach."

He added that if the outbreak gets worse, it would be a problem for all cities.

"We will have our fingers on the pulse and respond appropriately," he said. "We will adapt as needed."

Fertitta added that he's optimistic because the situation is being dealt with "appropriately" and because the symptoms, as seen in New York, are "very treatable."

Although the media attention creates "anxiety," there’s value in having "accurate depictions" of the situation, Fertitta said.

He said that the extra attention could help curtail the spread of the virus if it encourages people to take sensible precautions.

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