They like us! They really like us!
NYC is expected to welcome a record 60.3 million visitors by the end of the year, according to NYC & Company.
“Not only has 2016 brought the largest number of visitors in New York City history, but it also caps off seven years of strong tourism growth and 15,000 more jobs for New Yorkers,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The surge in tourism has been accompanied by an increase in hotels: Fifty-eight new hotels — including six in Brooklyn, two in the Bronx, seven in Queens, and one in Staten Island — opened between 2014 and 2015. Proposals to build more hotels in Harlem, Washington Heights, Jamaica, Rockaway Beach, Long Island City, Bushwick and Red Hook are on the table, which will add another 24,000 rooms to the 111,000 that exist now by the end of 2019.
Hotel and sales taxes from tourism are expected to contribute about $1 billion to the economy this year, according to NYC & Co.
The destination marketing partnership is now pushing winter tourism as part of its new “Nonstop NYC” promotion. Following the success of Restaurant Week, Broadway Week and Off-Broadway Week, NYC & Co. has just added “NYC Attractions Week” (to be held Jan. 17 – Feb. 5), featuring two-for-one admissions to tours, cultural events and performances.
NYC & Co. is also “highlighting new areas like Lower Manhattan and its recent revitalization 15 years after 9/11, as well as future projects like Hudson Yards and Destination St. George in Staten Island, which will be home to the New York Wheel and Empire Outlets,” said NYC & Co. Vice President Chris Heywood. Other neighborhoods such as Harlem, Long Island City, Crown Heights and the Lower East Side are also being promoted, Heywood said.
Diluting the impact of tourism more evenly throughout the five boroughs would be a good thing, said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Historical Society. There are parts of the city, such as Greenwich Village, midtown, SoHo and the Meatpacking District, “that are just literally drowning in tourism,” to the detriment of residents, said Berman, who conceded he is conflicted.
While tourism helps some businesses, “it feels as if the city puts too much emphasis on the institutions bringing people into New York and not enough on improving life for NYC residents,” Berman said.
We are in the midst of an epic affordable housing crisis, he said, yet “housing is being torn down and permanent rental units are being converted.”
Even some tourists express concern about NYC catering to them at the expense of locals.
“Tourists want to see authentic cities,” that have not been colonized by commercialization and chain stores, said Kjell Jorgensen, 50, an associate professor of finance in Oslo, Norway, who was visiting NYC with his family this week.
Some visitors are already venturing farther afield from Manhattan. Juliette Tugene, 22, an urban architeture student from Paris who just landed in the HI NYC Hostel on the Upper West Side, came to see the glorious art deco buildings in Manhattan, but also planned to spend part of her week touring the Bronx and Brooklyn, which she read about in a French guidebook.
“The architecture is so different than Europe! It’s cool to see all these different things and just be in the streets,” she enthused.
Winter in New York is the easiest sell imaginable to Barbara Franco, 25, a civil engineer visiting for the first time from Minas Gerais, Brazil: “I am from Brazil and it is very hot,” explained Franco. Forget Rockefeller Center and the Statue of Liberty, or even incentivized pricing: “I want to see snow!” she said longingly.
Ken Chan, 26, a quality assurance engineer who lives in Sheepshead Bay, acknowledged there are entire areas of the city he avoids due to the crush of sightseers (can anyone say “Times Square”?) but said he welcomed sharing his home with visitors.
“I’m okay with (tourism). It brings money into the city and it doesn’t affect me as much,” as people who live in more heavily traveled areas, he said.