City's tourism wing releases industry report to candidates

People relax along the waterfront, near Pier 17,

People relax along the waterfront, near Pier 17, in lower Manhattan (Credit: People relax along the waterfront, near Pier 17, in lower Manhattan. (Getty Images))

The city's tourism wing says the Big Apple is the place to be for visitors, and it wants the next mayor to ensure it doesn't lose its luster.

NYC & Company released to the mayoral candidates and media Monday its first comprehensive report on the economic impact of the tourism industry since Mayor Michael Bloomberg created the group in 2006. Last year, the city had a record number of visitors, with 52 million visitors, a 19% jump from seven years ago. Those vistors spend nearly $37 billion annually in the city.

OGeorge Fertitta, NYC & Company's CEO, said his team created the report not only to show the candidates how important tourism is for the city's economy, which got a boost of $55.3 billion last year from the industry, but also to cultivate ideas for how to grow.

"I think a lot of the candidates are smart people and did their homework about this," he said. "We'd like them to come up with ways to make visiting better."

The largest increase in tourists came from international visitors, with 11 million non-Americans coming into the city last year vs. 7.26 million in 2006. Tourists from Asian and Latin American countries -- such as Argentina, Brazil and China -- saw the biggest jumps, the report said.

Fertitta said the challenge his group and the next administration will face is to make sure those tourists return to the city and spread the word to their friends.

"The other thing we noticed is that . . . once they experience New York City, whether they come from a small town or an international market, it stays with people," he said. "Most of them never want to leave, and some decide to live here."

Fertitta added that the only downtime for tourism is January and February, but his team has found several ways to fill the void with events such as Restaurant Week and Broadway Week.

As of press time, the campaign offices of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, city Comptroller John Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and GOP candidate Joe Lhota confirmed they received the report, all saying they would continue to back NYC & Company's initiative to promote outer-borough destinations.

"One of the best ways to boost tourism -- and our city's economy -- is to invest in programs and infrastructure that bring more people into boroughs beyond Manhattan," Quinn said in a statement.

Said Liu in a statement: "We can promote tourism even further by leveraging the ties that many of our neighborhoods enjoy with places all over the world."

"Bill de Blasio believes promoting travel and tourism opportunities across the five boroughs is key to creating jobs and ensuring we're projecting a positive image of New York City to visitors from across the globe," a spokeswoman for the public advocate said.

A rep for Lhota said in a statement: "As the city's fastest-growing industry, Joe understands the importance of tourism to our economy and job base."

Fertitta said he predicts that all of the candidates will make tourism a priority and was optimistic that it would achieve NYC & Company's goal of 55 million visitors and $70 billion in economic impact by 2015.

"These are important milestones to recognize and not falter," he said

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