Roundup: Tourism, Orbital Sciences, Lockheed

From staff and wire reports

*The number of visitors to Washington rose in 2007 and is holding steady this year, though tourism officials are bracing for a decline in 2009 because of the weakening U.S. economy, according to statistics released Wednesday.

Washington counted 16.2 million visitors in 2007 -- a 7 percent increase from the previous year, according to tourism officials. Visitor spending also increased 6 percent to $5.5 billion in 2007. The number of international visitors to the city rose 13 percent, due in part to the weak value of the dollar.

Washington tourism saw a sharp decline following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a loss of about 2 million visitors annually compared with figures from 2000. With steady increases in international travel, officials expect the number of foreign visitors will rebound to pre-9/11 levels by 2011.

"Any change is going to be an improvement for the U.S. tourism industry," said William Hanbury, president and chief executive of the tourism bureau Destination D.C.

Still, tourism economist Ken McGill warns household income is beginning to decline in U.S. cities along the East Coast that help feed D.C. tourism.

"Travel decisions are primarily driven by economics," McGill said.

When money is tight, the competition among destinations cities like New York, Orlando and Washington will increase, so the capital city may have to spend more money on promotions to maintain its rank as the eighth-most visited U.S. destination, McGill said.

International visitors make up only about 8 percent of visitors to Washington but account for more than a quarter of tourism spending, shelling out more than $1,000 per visitor on average, compared with about $276 per domestic visitor.

So far in 2008, domestic flights to Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport have declined 6 percent, while international arrivals have increased about 7 percent, according to the tourism bureau. Hotel occupancy rates have been buoyed by record highs in April and July related to major events like Pope Benedict XVI's visit, the National Cherry Blossom Festival and large citywide conventions.

*Orbital Sciences named two new members of its management team. The company makes small rockets and space systems.

Frank L. Culbertson Jr. becomes senior vice president and deputy general manager of the company's Advanced Programs Group, responsible for Orbital's human spaceflight programs. That Dulles-based division provides commercial transportation services to the International Space Station and the Orion Launch Abort System.

Mark A. Pieczynski has been named vice president of Orbital's new Southern California Engineering Center in Huntington Beach, Calif. Pieczynski will oversee the technical support provided to Orbital's various launch vehicle and space systems programs.

*Lockheed Martin's first vessel in a new class of shore-hugging warships has been found "capable, well-built and inspection-ready," the Navy said. A survey board recommended the Navy take delivery of Freedom, the maiden Littoral Combat Ship, or LCS, even though 21 significant glitches remain to be resolved. hat list represents as few as one-tenth the number of "material deficiencies" that have plagued other first of class warships, Navy officials told reporters at a Pentagon briefing.

"We didn't get any real 'Igotchas' out of the report," said Admiral Kevin McCoy, commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command and the service's former chief engineer, referring to potential showstoppers.

General Dynamics is building the second ship in the class, which is due to wrap up its acceptance trials by the end of March next year, said W.N. Summerall, a senior Navy shipbuilding official.

Lockheed and General Dynamics are vying to build the next three LCS ships -- one authorized in the fiscal 2008 budget and two expected to be approved for purchase in 2009. The winner of the competition will build two of the new hulls; the loser will build the other. Navy officials declined to speculate on a timetable for a contract award.

By Terri Rupar  |  August 27, 2008; 4:04 PM ET  | Category:  Roundup
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