Record Number of Tourists Visited New York City in 2015, and More Are Expected This Year
It has been a decade since former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg decided to ramp up New York City’s efforts to attract more tourists, and city officials say there is no end to the influx on the horizon.
In Berlin on Wednesday, Fred Dixon, the chief executive of New York’s tourism-marketing agency, NYC & Company, plans to announce a forecast of 59.7 million visitors this year. That would exceed last year’s record of 58.3 million visitors by 2.4 percent and keep the city on pace for a goal of drawing 67 million annual visitors by 2021, Mr. Dixon said in an interview.
The tourists have kept flowing into New York from around the country and the rest of the world despite turmoil in many places, a slowing economy in China and a strengthening American dollar that weakens the buying power of foreigners, Mr. Dixon said. Despite the slowdown in China, the country is expected to be a growing source of visitors to the city in 2016, which has been declared “U.S.-China tourism year,” he said.
NYC & Company is projecting about 920,000 visitors from China this year, an increase of 8.2 percent from the preliminary estimate of about 850,000 in 2015. China is the fourth-largest source of foreign visitors to the city, behind England, Canada and Brazil.
“We’ve already said we’re expecting Chinese visitors to reach one million by 2018, and this could help us achieve it even sooner,” Mr. Dixon said.
Under the leadership of Mr. Dixon, who was chosen to be chief executive by Mayor Bill de Blasio two years ago, NYC & Company has continued to promote the city overseas — not an inexpensive undertaking.
The agency’s total budget for this year will be about $35 million, with more than half of it provided by the city government, Mr. Dixon said. The rest comes from hotel operators and other tourism-related businesses that make up its membership.
Alicia Glen, the deputy mayor for economic development, said the city’s contribution is projected to increase this year by more than 50 percent, to over $18 million.
“Tourism is an incredibly important piece of our economy,” Ms. Glen said in a phone interview. “When we invest in the sector, we get a really high return.”
Still, the city’s annual contribution to NYC & Company had fallen to about $12 million from a high of about $22 million when Mr. Bloomberg, a political independent, took control of the agency and announced an audacious goal of attracting 50 million visitors by 2015. The campaign was so successful that the original goal was reached four years early, in 2011. After the annual tally rose to nearly 57 million, Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, declared a new goal of attracting “10 million more” visitors by 2021.
The increased tourism has made for some very crowded parts of the city, especially in Manhattan, Ms. Glen acknowledged. That is why, she said, there is now an emphasis on getting tourists to explore other boroughs.
Tourism officials are hoping to persuade out-of-towners that “the cool thing to do is to get out of Manhattan,” Ms. Glen said. “You’re sort of a loser if you come to New York and just go to Times Square.”
Emily Rafferty, the chairwoman of NYC & Company and former president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, said the most important factor in continuing to attract people is that they feel safe, particularly in the wake of terrorist attacks like the one in Paris in November. William J. Bratton, New York’s police commissioner, will be one of the prominent speakers at the agency’s annual meeting next week, Ms. Rafferty said.
“We want to assure everybody who is concerned about safety,” she said. “Commissioner Bratton has been extraordinary in his ability to give assurances to people that it’s safe to come to New York.”