|By Leon Stafford, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 14, 2004 - Despite efforts to make downtown Atlanta shiny and safe, the perception among meeting planners and corporations is that it is neither.
That's the finding of a new study indicating that perception is hampering efforts to improve the city's destination appeal.
Among those who book big trade shows and conventions, Atlanta is viewed as having almost everything they want: the nation's fourth-largest convention center, an abundance of hotel rooms and an airport that is accessible from anywhere, the study by the Boston Consulting Group says.
But when it comes to how the city looks, its tourist offerings, hotel taxes, crime and race relations, they are less than impressed.
The 1,244 meeting planners surveyed by Boston Consulting gave Atlanta low marks on destination appeal, increasingly an important factor in booking decisions, the study found. When judged as a desirable leisure and vacation destination against 40 U.S. and Canadian cities, Atlanta ranked 33rd.
"The current efforts to clean up must really be accelerated," Ron Wolf, ACVB board member and executive director of the Georgia Restaurant Association, said Wednesday during a meeting to discuss the findings.
Several groups, including downtown promotion organization Central Atlanta Progress, the mayor's office and the ACVB, have led cleanup efforts over the past few years. The city also has cracked down on panhandling, and CAP's Ambassadors have increased their visibility in high-traffic areas.
The city did receive good marks in some areas. The respondents praised Atlanta as an inexpensive destination to get to, with attractive hotels and good shopping and restaurants. And they said Atlanta was well-suited for large trade shows and conventions, ranking the city No. 4 of the 40 compared.
Carey Roundtree, ACVB executive vice president, said leaders can better market the city by involving its Fortune 500 companies in the effort. He said they also should make sure people know that crime is dropping downtown and in Buckhead, which also has had its reputation sullied by crime.
"We face some pretty solvable issues," he said.
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