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D.C. mayor responds to tourists’ safety concerns after threats

WASHINGTON — The Paris attacks and terrorist threats by ISIS specifically directed against Washington, D.C., have given some tourists second thoughts about visiting the nation’s capital.

The city’s head of tourism says some trips have been postponed, as tour organizers, particularly those for student groups, are raising questions about security.

“I think it’s a natural reaction when you’re sending your 8th grader or a kid on a trip and there’s a concern about safety as to whether the city is prepared,” says Elliot Ferguson, president and CEO of Destination D.C., the city’s convention and tourism corporation.

“People want to know … what the city’s response is to the threat and what is in position to make sure that people have a sense of safety,” Ferguson says.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, pointing out that Washington came under attack on 9/11, says she’s confident all necessary steps are being taken to promote security against the terror threat.

“Our city is very practiced on working with our federal partners to keep Washington, D.C., safe,” Bowser says.  “We feel very confident in dealing with any issues.”

The mayor says the Paris attacks, which included restaurants and a theater, have sparked concern among potential visitors.

“I think what the attacks in Paris reminded us of is that targets have shifted from what used to be attacks against American institutions, buildings or police or military to soft targets [as] we’ve seen in other places in the world,” Bowser says.

Ferguson says prospective visitors are asking about so-called soft targets.

“What’s in place in terms of safety? What processes are in place in hotels and restaurants? What’s the plan?” Ferguson says, outlining questions he’s received.

Tourism is one of the city’s biggest employers and sources of revenue, and members of the D.C. Council are among those eager to see a steady stream of tourists.

“Washington, D.C., is as safe as anywhere and we really go to great lengths to make sure that that’s the case,” says Jack Evans, council member for Ward 2.

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