NEW YORK – Over a month after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, New York City hotels and restaurants are still reeling. But with the help of tourism industry campaigns and mayoral cheerleading, the city that never sleeps is slowly waking up again.
Fear of flying and edginess about being close to Ground Zero have kept tourists at bay. Even tenacious New Yorkers have been homebodies, and the results have dealt a serious blow to the hospitality industry.
The city estimates that up to 100,000 jobs were lost as a result of the World Trade Center attack, and according to the New York State Department of Labor the unemployment rate in September, after seasonal adjustment, was 6.3 percent, the highest city rate since October 1999.
John Turchiano, spokesman for the New York Hotel Trades Council, the union which represents 25,000 members, said that about a quarter of its membership had been laid off. But he remains optimistic.
"Hopefully, within a month or two the tourist industry will be back to where it was," Turchiano said. "This is still a great city to visit."
Lisa Herbst, spokeswoman of the Hotel Association of New York City, said that the hotel occupation rate is in the mid-60 percent level and seems to be climbing. "Normally at this time of year, occupation rate would be between 80 and 90 percent," she said.
Another industry source, who asked to remain anonymous, said the hotel business is improving slightly because hotels are offering rates that "people haven't seen in 25 years."
"You could get a room at the Waldorf Astoria last week for $99 a night – that's just unheard of," the source said. "People have an opportunity right now to stay at world-famous hotels at amazing prices."
Tourism initiatives are creating Gotham-friendly fun for everyone.
"Restaurant Week," "CultureFest 2001," and "Paint the Town Red, White and Blue" are promotions NYC & Company, the organization that promotes the city's tourism, has initiated to boost business.
"CultureFest" will take place Oct. 20 and 21 in Bryant Park, midtown Manhattan. The free event offers a preview of the fall's performing arts and museum exhibitions, featuring organizations from every borough, ranging from the Japan Society in Manhattan to the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
During Restaurant Week, an annual event, some of the city's premiere eateries offer prix-fixe menus, $20.01 for lunch and $30.01 for dinner. The program has been so popular this year it has been extended to run through Oct. 31.
"Prior Restaurant Weeks have allowed our great restaurants to say 'Thank you' to New Yorkers and visitors for their support during the rest of the year," said Cristyne L. Nicholas, President and CEO of NYC & Company. "This year, our wonderful restaurants need our help."
For "Paint the Town Red, White and Blue," which kicks off Nov. 5, over 350 hotels, restaurants and retail stores are offering discounts and special packages. One can stay at the historic Algonquin Hotel for the much-reduced rate of $189 per night, head to Broadway and see Rent from orchestra seats for only $55, and receive a 15 percent discount on merchandise at the Children's Museum of Manhattan.
New York's hospitality industry may be feeling the pinch, but the financial bruises are already beginning to heal. A new version of an iconic sentiment seen across town on T-shirts captures the spirit of those who inhabit and visit the self-proclaimed world's capital: "I STILL Love New York."