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Giuliani lends support to Choice’s annual convention

With former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani on hand to provide added inspiration, Choice Hotels International executives on Thursday outlined aggressive marketing and revenue-generating initiatives at the company’s 48th Annual Convention in Atlanta. More than 4,000 franchisees and other industry representatives attended the event, which wraps up today at the Georgia World Congress Center.

Choice Hotels CEO Charles Ledsinger and Marketing Senior Vice President Wayne Wielgus discussed promotional campaigns aimed at boosting business at the company’s hotels, which include Comfort Inn, Quality, Sleep Inn, Clarion and other brands. In the post-Sept. 11 economy, the company has intensified its marketing efforts. Last year, Choice Hotels, which is based in Silver Spring, Md., introduced an airline miles program and offered guests $5 gas discount cards.

"2001 created special challenges," Ledsinger said. "Together, we have weathered the storm." In its latest media blitz, the company is partnering with McDonald’s to give guests free value meals and holding sweepstakes offering trips to Las Vegas.

Rudy Giuliani praised Choice Hotels for its role in reviving the economy after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "Your industry has been hurt probably more than most," he said. "You’ve done a really, really good job to help people move beyond this."

After the terrorist attacks, Choice Hotels launched its "thanks for traveling" campaign, a slogan that was soon picked up by organizations such as the Automobile Association of America.

Giuliani said the attacks brought Americans closer together and strengthened their beliefs in democracy and religious freedom. "The country is actually considerably stronger than it was before Sept. 11," Giuliani said. "We’re stronger because we face reality now."

The former New York mayor, who was named Time magazine’s 2001 "Person of the Year," also answered questions from the audience. No, he told one audience member, he doesn’t plan on running for president. When he said, "my plan in the next year is to travel a lot," he was met with applause.

Giuliani also was asked what he thinks should replace the World Trade Center towers in Downtown Manhattan. The area should be dedicated to a memorial, he said, not new buildings. He suggested that office towers might be appropriate for the periphery of the former WTC site, but that a park should be established to honor the victims who died at Ground Zero.

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