By Bryan Schwartzman
The tourism industry accounts for 12 percent of the borough's total employment, or 46,315 jobs, and an annual $2 billion payroll, a significant increase over recent years, according to the report in Global Business Outlook, a quarterly publication of the QCEDC.
One strong indicator – hotel occupancy – reached 89 percent this year, up 2 percent from 1999, QCEDC found.
“This is reflective of the economy being strong across-the-board,” said Marie Nahikian, director of the non-profit agency. “Staying in Queens is less expensive and sometime more interesting than staying in Manhattan.”
“If you can't afford a trip to India, you can come to Queens,” she said.
Dan Andrews, a spokesman for Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, said the borough's unemployment rate dropped by 1 percent in 2000.
“This is great news for Queens – tourism and job growth are up,” Andrews said.
There are at least 15 hotels in Queens with 100 rooms or more and two more on the way. A new JFK Marriott Courtyard and a Hampton Inn, also near John F. Kennedy International Airport, are set to open in August, said Alysia Desocio, director of sales for JFK Radisson, itself only two years old.
“One reason for this is for the increased terminals and expansions at the airport,” said Desocio. “All of the LaGuardia hotels are all overcrowded, so we are getting people from LaGuardia as well.”
Museums, performing arts and cultural institutions reported a total attendance of 640,282 during the first nine months of 2000, a 1.5-percent increase over 1999. The cultural institution with the highest attendance was the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Park, the report said.
But while the report said 208,000 visitors have come to the center so far this year, the Hall of Science said the number is closer to 275,000.
“It's not important whether people are considered tourists, but that more and more people are coming to Queens,” said Michael Savino, a Hall of Science spokesman.
Employment at Queens cultural institutions has grown by 43 percent since 1995, according to the report, and Savino said the Hall of Science has added 20 permanent jobs since then.
He said nearly 90 percent of its visitors come from Queens, Long Island, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Attendance at the National League Champion New York Mets games fell just shy of 3 million, the highest figure since 1990. The Mets lost the World Series to the New York Yankees this fall.
“Tourism affects us, but I wouldn't say it's a very large factor,” said Dave Howard, a spokesman for the New York Mets. “Our attendance is due largely to success of the team over the last two years.”
Between 1985 and 1990, the Mets drew 3 million fans annually.
“We're getting back to that,” Howard said. “I think next year we will pass the mark.”
He said increased tourism has had a more direct effect on attendance at the U.S. Open, played at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. According to the report, 600,000 fans attended the two-week tennis classic this year, a third more than in 1990.