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Hotel still coping with 9/11 fallout.

Even before Sept. 11, the slowing economy was having an adverse effect' on business travel to Manhattan. The terrorist attacks were a devastating blow to an industry that was already in trouble.

With some 3,000 new hotel rooms added to the city's inventory last year, many hotels are now competing with more players for a smaller share of the market. Six months after the terrorist attacks, hotels are still coping with the fall-out.

The good news for hotel owners and managers is that meetings and conventions convening in the New York metropolitan area are holding their own. The bad news is that local events are drawing local attendees, who come and go the same day. Thus, even if meeting rooms are booked, guest rooms are still empty. Conferences that attract a lot of out-of-towners are highly desirable for hotel managers, because they fill up guest and meeting rooms. Still, one cannot underestimate the importance of hosting as many metro area meeting's and conventions as possible.

Such events provide an opportunity for a hotel to raise its profile locally, particularly among meeting planners. And that could lead to more business down the road, when business travel gets back to full swing.

For hotels looking to get in on the action, it's more important than ever to focus on meeting space. At the New Yorker Hotel, we've looked for innovative ways to both increase our meeting room capacity, and to make meeting space as flexible as possible. After all, hosting meetings and conventions can be profitable for hotels, even if it doesn't translate into overnight room bookings. Most meetings booked at a hotel include food service, which can be quite lucrative.

But a hotel must be acutely aware of the kinds of things conference and meeting planners are looking for, if they want to host more business gatherings. For example, requests for videoconferencing facilities surged after Sept. 11, so we were aggressive in marketing that service at The New Yorker.

Another thing that conference planners are looking for in a hotel these days is large break-out rooms. It's become quite common, particularly in large conventions, for several different sessions to be taking place simultaneously. We have over 30,000 SF of meeting room space here at The New Yorker. Much of that space is designed either for large banquets, or for more intimate settings.

Breakout rooms provide a forum for conference planners to offer participants the opportunity to attend various different sessions of interest. Such break-out rooms should accommodate at least 100 people. The problem is that from time to time, we don't have enough breakout rooms, so we felt it could hurt us in competing for big conferences.

Thus, we turned to our new neighbors, the new Loew's multiplex across from the hotel, near Penn Station, for some assistance. We worked out an agreement that greatly enhances our capacity to host large conferences.

Under the arrangement, the hotel can use one or more of the 14 theaters during off-peak times (Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.) to accommodate conferences and conventions held at the New Yorker Hotel.

All these extra spaces offer stadium seating and state-of-the-art sound systems. For large conferences that require several different simultaneous presentations, the agreement with Loew's gives us an advantage we otherwise would not have had. We can link their system with ours to provide simultaneous participation in the meeting.

This is just one example of the flexibility and innovation that hotels must demonstrate to attract business in this economic climate.
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Title Annotation:industry in New York recovering from terrorist attack
Author:Mann, Barry S.
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 27, 2002
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