For managers of the Leesburg Holiday Inn, proximity to Washington is both a selling point and a potential liability.
The hotel markets itself as close, but not too close, to the nation's capital.
"We still list it as a Dulles airport hotel, but if we're dealing with leisure tours, we let them know we're in Loudoun County and a very safe area," manager Ned Tentindo said.
The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon, then the roving sniper, and now warnings that the District and New York are again potential danger zones have presented challenges for hotels and tourist attractions in the suburbs.
With business travel down, hoteliers are angling for tourists to take up the slack. But tourists generally stay away from terrorist targets.
"Our business has pretty much been affected by 9/11," Tentindo said. Corporate and government travel is down to about 50 percent of his business from 70 percent, he said.
Tentindo and others said they are holding their breath, waiting to see what happens once the Homeland Security Office's recent declaration of a Code Orange alert, the second-highest risk level, sinks into travelers' psyches.
"In the last two years, businesses were definitely changing their meetings" because of the terrorist attacks, said Dianne Murphy, a spokeswoman at Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg. "That hasn't happened yet this year."
She said she wondered whether people traveling for business and pleasure have become numb to Washington's warnings.
Randy Collins, president of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce, said many things in the business world are in transition, what with the potential war against Iraq, heightened security fears and more people losing jobs.
Collins said that while some consultants and defense firms in the county are on the verge of winning contracts related to the latest events, others are scrambling to replace workers called up for military service.
Other businesses, such as bed-and-breakfast establishments and wineries in rural western Loudoun, may benefit as people decide to flee the city.
"We feel extremely fortunate that there is some real estate and a couple of mountains between us and D.C.," said Paul Breaux, who owns Breaux Vineyards in Purcellville with his wife, Alexis. "I think people right now need a break. It doesn't do any good to worry, so people want to get out and take the proverbial breath of fresh air, and western Loudoun County especially is a beautiful attraction."
But he is not just sitting on his 400 acres, unconcerned about threats to Washington. As a precaution, he has filled a huge tank, usually reserved for wine, with water.
Margaret Hubert, owner of Leesburg's Tarara Vineyard and bed-and-breakfast, said she was taking the Code Orange alert seriously. "But we're not buying plastic and tape," she said. "You never know how insulated you are. We're on the Potomac River. We're on a good flight line. But we're a little removed from downtown."
The restaurant at Tarara was completely booked for dinner all weekend.
Hubert said a recent visitor to the bed-and-breakfast is living in the District for three months while working on a contract. The woman, from Alabama, told Hubert that she wished she were staying at Tarara full time instead of in the city.
Hubert said she believes that people would come to the country no matter what. "We're a destination," she said. "It's a place that people want to come anyway."
-- Amy Joyce