New York Business Travel: Questions and Answers

Fran Reiter, former New York City deputy mayor and newly appointed president and CEO of the New York Convention & Visitors Bureau, speaks with freelancer Amy Lippi Ricciardi about business travel in the Big Apple.

TW: In general, how did 1997 fare in the business, meetings and conventions industry in New York City, and what do you expect for 1998?

Reiter: In 1996, we had a 2% increase in domestic business travelers, and 1997 also saw growth. As business here in the city improves, there are more reasons for business people to come here.

Our vacancy rates in commercial space have been going down, and our general business climate has improved dramatically. These things are intrinsically linked. As our business grows, our hotel occupancy rates rise.

As for meetings and conventions, the Javits Center is booked and overbooked. The issue with the center has always been that it needs more space for small meetings and conferences. We need to find new and interesting places and venues for smaller shows and must create true meeting space.

TW: Speaking of the center, there has been so much talk about expanding it. What do you see as the benefits of such a plan?

Reiter: The center definitely needs to expand, but the key is it needs to expand in one fell swoop. It can't get stuck in a slowed pipeline and do it incrementally. Do it once to meet the needs of a first class convention center. The plan being considered now by the state will accomplish this.

TW: Do you think New York's cleaner image and the reduction in crime have helped lure business travelers to the area?

Reiter: Image is very significant. In the past, people were coming here because they had to. Now, the difference is that since business is growing here, as I mentioned before, you create an environment which draws more people. Those improvements have created a better business environment.

TW: What sales aids do you have for agents who want to familiarize themselves with the product?

Reiter: We offer our Travel Planning Guide, our Big Apple Visitors Guide, a Calendar of Events, easy-to-read city maps and our publication "What's New In New York." We need to do a better job of educating travel agents outside of the city who sell New York. We will be exploring this problem very quickly.

TW: What do you think is the city's most valuable asset in terms of bringing in business, meetings and convention travelers?

Reiter: We are the culture capital, the business capital, the new media capital. It's all here. There is nothing that a business person needs that isn't here. You can't pick out just one thing. We are an embarrassment of riches.

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