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With the city's hospitality industry still reeling from the Sept. 11 attacks, Mayor John Street has announced a new initiative to bolster the local economy and provide relief for ailing hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions.

The Hospitality Industry Support Initiative will use six strategies, bannered under the theme "Philly's More Fun When You Sleep Over" to hopefully generate $71 million in visitor spending in the coming year.

The initiative hopes to boost the short-term sales of hotel rooms by increasing the city's visibility and competing against neighboring tourist destinations, which will in turn impact other segments of the hospitality industry, such as historical attractions and restaurants.

"When the economy is soaring, people go to places like Europe, but when it's bad, tourists rediscover places like Philadelphia," said Meryl Levitt, president and CEO of Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation. "But the September 11 attacks just stopped everything in its tracks."

Philadelphia only lost two conventions -- a major staple of the city's hospitality industry -- due to the terrorist attacks, but the situation has made people wary of hopping on flights for a vacation or convention.

"Most people who are going to come typically fly, so we want to make sure we keep attendance up... by trying to attract regional businesses to host meetings here," Sue Schwenderman of the Philadelphia Conventions and Visitors Bureau said. "We're saying, 'Keep it here in Philadelphia.'"

The ultimate goal is for convention-generated business to work in tandem with tourism.

"The convention attendee is a future tourist as well," Levitt said. Ideally, convention members will stay a few days beyond the convention, and begin to see the city as a potential vacation destination.

"Conversely, having a good tourism campaign makes a destination seem more attractive to convention attendees. You really have to pump it to both" business travelers and tourists, Levitt said.

The convention-tourism relationship also works since the two groups tend to take trips at different times, keeping hotels filled as much as possible.

In addition to public service announcements and an ambitious ad campaign, city officials are meeting face-to-face with both regional businesses and businesses in other major cities to lure them to Philadelphia.

"Next year, 52 major meetings are scheduled, and none of those have canceled," Schwenderman said. "We're making sure they all have strong attendance."

The city sees its position -- right between New York and Washington -- as advantageous.

"Right now we're a very attractive alternative," Levitt said, explaining that Philadelphia's location makes it easy to visit several other cities in one trip. "When people start traveling again, they will bundle cities, and Philadelphia is easily bundled. Since those cities have such dense populations, we're a good alternative for people who want to get away from it all."

"Accessible, affordable, incredible -- those are the three hallmarks of the campaign," Levitt added.

Philadelphia is also being packaged with more rural destinations, such as Lancaster County, to de-emphasize the urban edge for travelers fearful of visiting crowded areas.

"Most money will be made attracting individual leisure tourists -- the drive market, or those within a tank of gas distance," Levitt said.

"We are within a drive for a large percentage of people, so we need to be hammering all of those markets," said Mickey Rowley, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association. "We're expecting an impact on international attendance, but we're bolstering domestic attendance."

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