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Confirmation of Pope Francis' Visit Sends Philadelphia Hospitality Industry Into Overdrive

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- For Philadelphia's tourism industry, word that Pope Francis is definitely coming to the city next September is... well, a godsend.

Now, the hotels and historic sites have ten months to get ready.

"The phones have been ringing off the hook for the hotels on this visit," notes Ed Grose, head of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association.

Grose says rooms are quickly getting booked for the pope's appearance here next September.

"There have been some hotels that have been contacted by news media," Grose tells KYW Newsradio.  "Some organizations are trying to secure entire hotels."

The city itself has about 11,500 hotel rooms and the expanded region has about 40,000.  If you include points as far east as Atlantic City, there are 70,000 hotel rooms.

Even that number is a drop in the bucket compared to the one-million-plus people expected here to greet and hear from Pope Francis.  So, those without hotels will be urged to stay with host families.

World Meeting of Families executive director Donna Farrell says the use of host families for visitors will be crucial.

"Without that, we cannot accommodate all of our visitors coming from all over the world," she says.

Jack Ferguson, CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, says the pontiff's appearance will add about $300 million to the economic impact of the World Meeting of Families.

"So, collectively, about $417 million in economic impact coming in over that week for the city of Philadelphia.  Even Super Bowls don't pull that," he says.

And the phones have also been ringing at the tourism promotion agency Visit Philadelphia.  CEO Meryl Levitz says they'll provide information to World Meeting of Families participants on what to do beyond the meeting's official sessions.

"We're already receiving so many requests from around the world about information on sacred sites, historical sites, Philadelphia for families, for summer and fall.  So we're providing a ton of press materials already," Levitz says.

And the phones for all these folks are likely to keep ringing, right up until the moment the pope departs Philadelphia.

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