SM: When you announced your departure in early September, you said that the goals you set when you took on NYC & Company's lead role seven years ago have been achieved. What were they?
Cristyne Nicholas: The obvious goal for a CVB is more visitors and conventions, and we have certainly achieved that. In 1999, we had 35 million visitors; this year we'll have 44 million, including 4.1 million group visitors. Another goal was the Javits Center expansion, and we broke ground on that in October.
SM: Speaking of Javits, the expansion plans have gone through many permutations during your tenure. What do you think of the plan that's finally been settled oncombining the expansion with a stadium?
Nicholas: We have a real timeline for the first time, so that's great news for the city. In fact, we have six bookings already for the improved facility [which should be complete by 2010].
SM: Has New York reached its full potential as a destination for group business, or is there more opportunity?
Nicholas: Hotels are the ones that will provide the opportunity. We have 6,000 rooms coming online in the next two years, but some meeting planners will only deal with a particular brand that they've done well with, so we want lots of different flags in this city. And the best way to encourage brands to come here is to create demand, which is what we're doing.
SM: During your tenure, what did you learn about the meetings industry in New York and beyond?
Nicholas: Meetings and conventions are a buffer to a city's economy when times go bad. We never saw that more prominently than we did after September 2001.
SM: What's next for you?
Nicholas: I will be establishing a firm that focuses on tourism development, public relations, and communicationsI want to remain a part of this wonderful industry. Tourism was the road to recovery for New York and the nation. It's our greatest foreign policy tool, and if I can help improve America's image through its use, that would be rewarding for me.
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