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
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
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.