At the opening session of the One Young World summit last weekend, president and CEO of the World Affairs Council Steve Sokol was stalling for time while President Bill Clinton's motorcade approached Heinz Hall. In the participatory spirit of the event, he turned the microphone to the crowd and asked, "What have you noticed about Pittsburgh so far?" The immediate response was unanimous -- "Friendly!" a half-dozen accented voices called out.
As a member of the Pittsburgh delegation at the One Young World summit, I chatted with other delegates from 190 countries and heard a familiar refrain: "Pittsburgh is so friendly. I'll definitely be back."
Pittsburgh is talented at rolling out the red carpet for visitors at high-profile international events such as One Young World and the G-20. But Pittsburgh is less welcoming to visitors who would come on their own, because it lacks a comfortable budget accommodation facility.
In my role as director of the Pittsburgh Hostel Project, I am more convinced than ever of our rising global city's need for a world-class budget accommodation facility. We are working hard to open a $1.1 million hostel in the city by the end of 2013.
Pittsburgh is a world-class city with small-town appeal. Once visitors experience Pittsburgh, they're hooked. But Pittsburgh's challenge is to get them here in the first place. With a hostel, Pittsburgh would have the opportunity to invite visitors from around the world to see our friendly city, not just for big events like the G-20 or One Young World, but any time.
As the activities of the One Young World summit illustrated again, the world has been impressed by Pittsburgh's friendliness and hospitality. The Pittsburgh Hostel will be an institution built from that tradition -- and with impact beyond its own four walls.
ANNE MARIE TOCCKET
Director, Pittsburgh Hostel Project
Delegate, One Young World