When the tourists stayed away

Stricken cities want tourism as a national economic priority. Mayors and tourism officials, shaken by the loss of more than 500,000 travel and tourism jobs since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, are meeting here today to seek federal help. It's not just New York and other big cities that haven't bounced back. The drop in international tourism has cost US cities more than $12.5 billion, according to the US Conference of Mayors. Tourism-related jobs in Nashville, for example, have dropped 14% since the attacks. Chicago lost 36,000 such jobs, Los Angeles 33,600, and Atlanta 28,600. Alarmed by these numbers and seeing no immediate relief, the mayors of 17 cities are holding a summit to draw attention to the importance of tourism to the nation's economic health. As in many other cities, Atlanta's economic well-being is tied to tourism. "It's people's jobs," Mayor Shirley Franklin says. "If hotel occupancy is low, they don't have jobs for people. For cities like Atlanta, Las Vegas, Honolulu, San Francisco, and New Orleans, the economic impact is tremendous." Tourism officials say the USA has fallen to third place as an international tourist destination, behind France and Spain. Before the terrorist attacks, it came second only to France.

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