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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Sep. 27, 200112:00 PM EST

Attacks impacting local tourism trade

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by: Monica Chamness

What do cops, a hotel and football have in common? They are intertwined with the success of the local tourist industry.

Tourist Oriented Policing Strategies — maintaining a police presence to ensure safety — the Adam’s Mark Hotel and the announcement that Jacksonville will host the 2005 Super Bowl are having an impact on tourism locally.

At its annual meeting at the Jacksonville Marriott Wednesday, the Jacksonville and the Beaches Convention Bureau explained the connections and discussed how it will deal with tourism in wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“It’s going to be a challenge for all of us during these times,” said BellSouth’s Michael Stewart, the new board chairman for the CVB. “I think the entire industry has to be assured that it is safe to travel and that is made on an individual basis. As that starts to come around, the industry will swing back around. I think we’re all still in shock as a result of it and somewhat leery.”

Looking back at 2000, Jacksonville hosted 5.51 million visitors who spent $2.89 billion, according to the CVB. Projections for this year are not as optimistic.

“In the last 14 days, 211 groups that we know of have canceled outright or have rescheduled their meetings in area hotels,” said Fred Pozin, past CVB chairman.

“The numbers are already showing that it [the terrorist attack] is having a negative impact and that’s all across the United States,” said Stewart. “It’s just a matter of time before we bring it back. Right now it is too early to talk about any specific initiatives that might make it happen instantly.”

For the coming year, the CVB has revamped its website to make it more comprehensive for users. The extranet portion of the website will be available to members within eight days to update information with full access to the new site, www.visitjacksonville.com, going live Dec. 5.

It also has a new logo and catch phrase, “Fabulous Florida. A Splash of Southern Charm.”

The new site features a link to the Weather Channel for local forecasts, an online video promoting the area, a calendar of events, sample itineraries, trip planners and virtual tours.

Stewart said to expect two main initiatives in the immediate future.

In tandem with FCCJ, CVB members can bring in one person from each of their departments for a crash course, “Train the Trainer,” in professional development within hospitality-related business venues.

The aim is to attract more visitors by revealing the direct benefit of healthy tourism to various industries. Strategic partnerships with hospitality and non-hospitality industries on a regional basis will be emphasized as well.

The second leg of the CVB’s plans for the upcoming year include a Secret Shopper program where an independent rating company scores different member businesses — at a discounted price — in customer service areas to determine what they may be lacking.

The CVB also announced its board of directors for 2001-02:

Michael D. Stewart, chairman; Jack Diamond, chair-elect; John Remmers, treasurer; Melissa Gilreath, immediate past chair; Bob Downey, Margo Dundon, Terry Hitt, John Kiddy, Norman LeBert, Bruce Lucker, Jerry Mallot, Madeline Scales-Taylor, Ron Weaver, David Potts, TDC liaison; Jeff York, legal counsel, and Kathleen M. Ratcliffe.

The 2001-02 members of the Tourist Development Council are City Council President Matt Carlucci, chairman; City Council member Gwen Yates, finance chair; City Council member Ginger Soud, Vicki Bridges, Jim Ewing, Henry B. Fonde, Warren Grymes, Orren Kahnt, David Potts, Mary Beth Mickey and Kirk Sherman.

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