Tourism: An engine for borough’s economy

Tourism: An engine for borough’s economy
The view from the Long Island City hotel is an indictator of how tourism is booming in Queens, where visitors spent more than $5 billion last year.
Photo by Beth J. Harpaz/AP
By Bill Parry

As New York City experienced its seventh consecutive year of tourism growth, welcoming an all-time record 60.3 million visitors by year’s end, a new study finds tourists spent more than $5 billion in Queens last year bringing big benefits to transportation, food, recreation and hotel industries.

According to a report released last Friday by a study group at the Jonathan M. Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism at the NYU School of Professional Studies, tourism brought $5.3 billion to the borough in 2015 supporting 56,816 jobs and generating nearly $753 million in state and local taxes. Due directly to this activity, one in 16 of all jobs in Queens is sustained by tourism.

“We’ve never seen numbers like this before. It’s unbelievable,” Queens Economic Development Corporation Director of Marketing & Tourism Rob MacKay said. “The visitors come here once, they love it and want to come back and they tell their friends about it. As a moment in time, Queens has never experienced tourism like this.”

The study shows the transportation sector garnered the lion’s share of the largess with nearly 40 percent, or more than $2.2 billion, driven by the borough’s 78 taxi companies. Recreation venues, led by Resorts World Casino New York City, got 21 percent or just more than $1.1 billion; the food-and-beverage industry took 11 percent, or nearly $615 million; and sports facilities attracted 10.8 percent, just over $615 million.

The borough has 111 hotels, 4,032 restaurants and 27 shopping centers. Tourists are drawn to more than 100 cultural, athletic, and recreational attractions and five beaches in Queens.

“People know about us and they’re having a great time here,” MacKay said.

QEDC data shows tourists from England lead the way in visiting Queens, followed by China, Germany, France, Holland and Canada.

“And Queens is rapidly becoming more popular with Brazil and Argentinians,” MacKay said.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday the 60.3 million visitors this year are 600,000 higher than the original forecast and 1.8 million more than last year’s revised year-end figure of 58.5 million. Travel and tourism now sustain more than 375,000 jobs in the city, representing a gain of 15,000 jobs over last year.

“More tourism means we have more people investing in New York City and are able to create more sustainable jobs for more people,” de Blasio said. “New York is a culturally rich and diverse city, with so much to offer those who visit.”

Hotel demand in the five boroughs has grown this year by 1.2 million, generating 34.9 million hotel room nights sold by year’s end. Hotel and sales taxes are estimated to contribute over $1 billion in revenues this year.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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