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Attendance Down at Ontario Science Center

By Eileen Buckley

Toronto, Ontario – Toronto business leaders from hotels and restaurants say the economic hit from SARS is far worse than the one after 9/11. The Ontario Science Center says it is also experiencing a drop in business.

The Ontario Science Center attracts American visitors from New York State and Ohio. Many schools take annual field trips to the center. But since there has been an outbreak of SARS in Toronto, the science center says it has received a number of school cancellations.

Anne Longmore, associate director of marketing, says like many other tourist attractions in Toronto, attendance is lower this month because of SARS.

"We get a lot of American school groups in the springtime," Longmore said. "Many of those groups have canceled. Some are re-booking for later in the season."

The center provides a number of hands on science exhibits -- which could promote fear from those concerned with coming in contact with SARS. But Longmore says the center always conducts regular cleaning of its exhibits.

"There is a corporate response team with our provincial government. We have sought specific advise from them," Longmore continued. "Public health officials continue to say that a public venue like ours, and our hands-on exhibits, are safe."

Longmore says she has not witnessed people walking the streets of Toronto wearing masks to protect against SARS. Personally, Longmore says she is following the public health advice to wash hands more frequently, but continues to lead a normal life.

Meanwhile, Toronto tourism officials are trying to figure out how to bring back visitors.