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There’s Still Room at Washington-Area Inns

January 11, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Bill Clinton’s inauguration is attracting 250,000 people to the capital, and the press for food, shelter and transportation is on.

But there’s still room at the inn, and that’s Camille Soriano’s problem.

She’s trying to convince people that they still can find hotel rooms if they want to come to Washington to partake in the inauguration festivities, beginning Sunday.

About 2,000 rooms remain vacant in the Washington area.

Some would-be guests have been turned off by the minimum four-night stay required by most hotels, said Soriano, spokeswoman for the Hotel Association of Washington D.C. Others, she said, simply assume all the hotels are booked.

Meanwhile, a wave of late cancellations has many suburban hotels scrambling to fill rooms.

It’s a domino effect: Groups that overbooked in the city pulled out; groups that had booked in the suburbs quickly took up the new openings in the city, canceling their original reservations in the suburbs.

″They gave us plenty of notice, so we’re not exactly high and dry,″ said David Erickson, sales coordinator for the Sheraton Suites Alexandria in nearby Virginia, where the Presidential Inaugural Committee canceled 80 rooms. ″We project we’ll sell out for the inauguration.″

Such confidence isn’t found everywhere.

The Washington visitors bureau says 15,000 hotel rooms will be filled, and the hotel association says the Bush inauguration-week occupancy rate of about 86 percent will be topped this year.

But the association says 23 hotels reported vacancies this week, including some of the city’s marquee names.

The vacancy figure is about the same as it was before Bush’s inauguration. The difference: The inaugural committee expects the folksy flavor of this year’s events to draw many more people than four years ago.

″To be honest, I was surprised by the numbers, too,″ Soriano said. ″I don’t know what it is.″

″It″ may be that more visitors are day-tripping, suggested Bill Lecos, executive vice president of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington.

That bodes well for eateries.

″You’re going to see more people from Richmond and Philadelphia here than last time,″ Lecos said.

The restaurant association is bracing for a jam at the poshest establishments, and is already trying to direct overflow to the city’s outer neighborhoods and suburbs.

″Every city has its high-profile restaurants, but you can’t fit a quarter- million people in them,″ Lecos said.

″What D.C. has is distinct neighborhood restaurants with their own flavor. So we’re trying to encourage members, concierges, restaurant owners to tell people to visit the other areas,″ he said.

Caterers can hardly meet the demand for their services.

″We’re doing great - we’ve got a large party coming up, four events on the 20th along the parade route and a couple of luncheons,″ said Elizabeth Petty, owner of The Catering Co. of Washington.

As for getting from one place to the next, ″business has already started to pick up,″ said Vaughn Williams, president of Yellow Cab Co. of D.C. ″We expect a big increase, it happens every time.″

And the transit authority is selling special $5 fare cards - complete with signatures of Clinton and Vice President-elect Al Gore - for unlimited one-day travel on the area’s subway system.

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