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NYC officials say tourism campaign a counter to Trump ‘rhetoric’

Donna Keren, the top researcher for New York City's tourism arm, testifies April 20, 2017, before a City Council committee about countering a forecast drop in foreign visitors under the Trump administration. (Credit: Newsday / Matthew Chayes)

New York City’s tourism arm is hoping to counter “hostile ‘America First’ rhetoric” of President Donald Trump with a multimillion-dollar ad campaign aimed at countries that often send the most U.S. visitors, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Mexico and Spain, the agency’s research chief told the City Council Thursday.

The $3 million multi-language campaign, called “ALL ARE WELCOME,” is set to debut in the coming weeks, said officials from the tourist arm, NYC & Company. Ads promoting the campaign will be featured on street banners, bus stops and other spots that prospective tourists might see.

“Consumers have many choices. We believe if the United States is perceived as hostile, or if visitors lose confidence with our entry process or are unfairly denied entry, they will choose to spend their money visiting and exploring destinations in other countries that are easier to enter, welcome, and inclusive,” said Donna Keren, NYC & Company’s senior vice president for research and analysis.

The multicolored ads show city landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and Grand Central Terminal clock, with the tag line: “New York City: Welcoming the World.”

Keren was one of the city and business leaders who testified Thursday at a nearly two-hour hearing before the City Council’s Economic Development Committee to analyze the tourism impact of Trump’s immigration policies, his travel bans, additional scrutiny at the border, electronic-device prohibitions on some flights and overall rhetoric about immigrants.

According to Keren, those and other Trump-related factors contributed to a forecast of 700,000 fewer foreign visitors to New York City in 2017 than projected. That’s 300,000 fewer compared to 2016 and more than $1 billion in lost revenue.

At risk is the city’s tourism industry, its sixth-largest employer, with 375,000 jobs. The industry generates more than $5.8 billion in taxes annually for the city and state, and visitors spent more than $42 billion in 2016 at businesses across the city. Foreign visitors make up only 20 percent of tourists to the city but are responsible for half of all visitor spending, she said.

Committee chairman Dan Garodnick (D-Manhattan) said he’s worried “misinformed and poorly executed travel bans” might discourage business trips to New York City, “a major hub for international banks and consulting firms.”

“This would have an outsize impact on New York’s economy,” he said.

But Councilman Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island), one of only three non-Democrats in the 51-member Council and a Trump supporter, questioned whether other factors, such as financial regulation or hotel-building restrictions in the city might impact the economy and tourism, rather than Trump.

Keren countered that the tourist arm’s forecast models — currently based on internet searches and flight bookings that dip when, for instance, Trump announced his executive orders — have been proved right time and again since 2003.

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