New York needs an action plan to make sure the city’s 60 million tourists a year keep coming back.
That’s the warning from the Center for an Urban Future in a new report that provides the first comprehensive analysis of how the city’s tourism boom over the past two decades has impacted New York’s economy.
The number of tourists visiting New York City has increased from 33 million a year in the late 1990s to 62.7 million in 2017 creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and elevating tourism into one of the four key drivers of New York City’s economy.
The study reveals that there are now more direct jobs in tourism (291,084) than in finance (268,200) and nearly twice as many jobs as in the city’s tech sector (128,600).
Funded by the Association for a Better New York (ABNY) and Times Square Alliance, the report found that revenue from tourists is giving retailers in particular a lift at a time when brick-and-mortar stores face mounting threats from online shopping.
The authors interviewed more than 100 retail store owners from SoHo and lower Fifth Avenue to Williamsburg and Dumbo and found that tourists accounted for 30 to 40 percent of their customers customers. Even in places such as in Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, the power of the tourist dollar has been felt to the tune of $23 million.
Tourists are responsible for 24 percent of all sales at New York City restaurants and drinking places.
Domestic and international tourists account for 48 percent of Visa card transactions in department stores.
Jeffrey Roseman, vice chairman at Newmark Knight Frank, said, “[Tourists] have a few days to a week to run around and they need three meals a day, they need entertainment and they want to buy souvenirs and clothing. They’re an incredible source of revenue for retailers and restaurants.”
The report includes several recommendations to strengthen the city’s tourism sector amidst a growing number of threats and challenges, including upgrading the tourism infrastructure.
Noting that New York never truly planned for a city with 60-plus million tourists a year, the report authors said everything from tour bus parking to modernizing the air traffic control system needs to be examined.
The report says needs a bigger budget to stay competitive with other global destinations and the city needs its first long-term tourism plan that examines everything to airport improvement to public signage.
According to Roseman displays and signs in multiple languages could help drive tourists to more neighborhoods and help small businesses take advantage of the tourism boom.
“There are so many incredibly famous non-chain retail and restaurant businesses in the city that people have heard of and want to come to,” Roseman said. “They’re not your traditional chains and tourists come to experience it because it’s such a New York vibe and you can’t duplicate that somewhere else.