Push to get tourists to venture into NYC neighborhoods pays off

A man rides a bike down Conover Street

A man rides a bike down Conover Street in Red Hook. (Credit: Anthony Lanzilote)

The city’s big push to get tourists to see New York beyond Times Square is paying off.

Since 2013, NYC & Company, the city’s tourism wing, has been showcasing areas to visitors such as Jackson Heights, Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, Williamsburg, and St. George in Staten Island. And Chris Heywood, NYC & Company’s spokesman, said tourists — especially those here on repeat trips — have caught on to the buzz.

“From our viewpoint, it has been tremendously successful in building awareness for everything New York City has to offer,” he said.

Outerborough community leaders and organizers say tourists use NYC & Company’s neighborhood suggestions as a starting point to explore the other hot spots outside of Manhattan’s top draws.

“People come to New York a number of times and it’s great to give them options,” said Olga Luz Tirado, the executive director of the Bronx Tourism Council.

When then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg started the program, called Neigborhood X Neighborhood, his goal was for the Big Apple to attract 55 million annual visitors by 2015. Heywood said the city will meet that figure by the end of this year.

Locally, the campaign has been pushed online and inside taxis.

Heywood said international tourists visiting the U.S. tend to plan their trips through agencies rather than online.

So, internationally, NYC & Company has focused on travel agencies, providing them with information and brochures about the 17 neighborhoods selected for the program so far.

Heywood added that the city has also targeted foreign media outlets, specifically travel magazines and websites, that have been looking for new American destinations for their readers.

Last month, the Toronto Star's travel section featured the Bronx on its cover, for example.

“It’s definitely caught on and [is] an inspiration for travel pieces,” Heywood said.

He added that the city has more in store for Neighborhood X Neighborhood, which launched its latest campaign, for Pelham Bay Park, last week. The program will continue to promote other parts of the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island and “lesser-known” sections of Manhattan, but NYC & Company wouldn’t divulge more details.

The promotion has also benefited from a boom in hotels in Long Island City and Downtown Brooklyn, which have been two of the most popular Neighborhood X Neighborhood areas. The neighborhoods offer high end accommodations and easy access to other popular parts of the city, according to Heywood.

Bloomberg said his goal for the initiative was to boost small businesses in the outer boroughs and community leaders said Neighborhood X Neighborhood has made a difference.

City Councilman Danny Dromm, who represents Jackson Heights, said he has seen a major tourism uptick in his area since Neighborhood X Neighborhood launched, mostly around the shops and restaurants near Roosevelt Avenue.

“I see people coming there, sitting outside and eating South Asian food. It doesn’t seem the normal crowd that is there,” he said.

Dromm said he’s impressed that so many individuals of different backgrounds have demonstrated a desire to take in his diverse community and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Tirado, who has lived in the Bronx almost all of her life, said she too has seen a hunger from tourists for more places to visit. She said recent visitors, who are predominantly European, have an outdated image of the borough as a dangerous, unfriendly place, but the Neighborhood X Neighborhood program showed them the truth of what’s going on in the Bronx.

“When they come and see City Island and Orchard Beach, that’s not the Bronx they see in their mind and it’s a wonderful thing,” she said.

Tirado said she loves it when tourists follow up their visits by asking her to suggest other places in the Bronx.

Heywood said the administration is proud that the campaign has been so successful and that it firmly believes all parts of the Big Apple can contribute to the city’s booming tourism industry.

“It’s a great way for us to continue the dialogue of New York City,” he said.

 

Here are the Neighborhood X Neighborhood communities that the city has featured so far:

1. Bushwick, Williamsburg, Ft. Greene
2. South Bronx
3. Lower Manhattan
4. Coney Island
5. Corona, Jackson Heights & Forest Hills
6. Harlem, Inwood & Washington Heights
7. St. George, Richmond & Randall Manor, Staten Island
8. Long Island City
9. Arthur Avenue & Fordham Road, Bronx
10. East Harlem
11. Park Slope
12. Flushing
13. Tompkinsville, Staten Island
14. Lower East Side
15. Red Hook
16. Rockaway & Jamaica Bay
17. City Island & Pelham Bay

 

Here are NYC tourist figures (domestic and international) in recent years from NYC & Company:

2008 - 47.1 M
2009 - 45.8 M
2010 - 48.8 M
2011 - 50.9 M
2012 - 52.7 M
2013 - 54.3 M
2014 - 55 M(projected)

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