By Gina Martinez
New York City attracted a record number of tourists in 2017 despite negative rhetoric from the White House, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
The city welcomed 62.8 million visitors last year, up 2.3 million from 2016, marking an eighth consecutive year of tourism growth, according to the mayor and NYC & Company, the city’s official destination marketing organization.
De Blasio said visitation for 2017 was made up of 49.7 million domestic and 13.1 million international visitors, both record highs.
“We’re keeping our door to the world open,” he said. “Even with all the headwinds from the White House, we attracted a record number of visitors to our city. That’s a testament to the strength of our tourism sector and the values of our city.”
Beginning in 2017, NYC & Company launched two campaigns: “New York City – Welcoming the World” and “True York City.” The campaigns were meant to help position New York as a must-visit destination, despite challenges in the geopolitical climate and changes in travel policies.
The Supreme Court approved the Trump administration’s ban on travel from eight nations in December 2017. Six of the countries – Syria, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Chad and Somalia — are majority Muslim nations, while North Korea and Venezuela are also on the list.
Still, tourism last year grew 3.8 percent overall from 2016, when New York City welcomed 60.5 million visitors. Domestic visitation grew 3.9 percent, from 47.8 million visitors in 2016 to 49.7 million in 2017. International travel increased by 3.4 percent, from 12.7 million visitors in 2016 to 13.1 million in 2017.
NYC & Company President and CEO Fred Dixon said their positive campaigns helped counter the negative political message from Washington and helped solidify New York City as a welcoming and open city.
“Despite geopolitical challenges and a travel ban that made our task of promoting tourism more challenging than ever, we are pleased to see that we overcame these hurdles to realize a consecutive eighth year of tourism growth in New York City,” he said.
According to Dixon, the increase in Asian and South American visitors helped offset drops in the city’s traditional European core markets.
Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), who also serves as chairman of the Committee on Economic Development, said it was no surprise that the world’s “greatest city” would continue to see growth in tourism year after year.
“However, the reality is that many challenges had to be overcome in order to continue this unparalleled growth,” he said. “The real takeaway here is that our city continues to successfully create countless reasons for visitors to come, and I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Administration to support initiatives and campaigns that will continue to make New York City the premier tourist destination in the world.”
To help boost travel in 2017, NYC & Company signed more international city-to-city tourism partnerships. The new partnerships included popular cities like Cape Town, Toronto, Tokyo, and renewals with Mexico City and Seoul. These partnerships include media exchanges to further promote NYC abroad.
New York has the most active hotel development pipeline in the United States, with 4,000 new rooms added to the city’s hotel inventory last year, bringing the total to almost 116,500 rooms, according to NYC & Company. Last year, the city sold a record 36.4 million hotel room nights, a 4.5 percent rise from 2016.
Business also helped boost tourism, as 6.2 million meetings and convention delegates came to the city in 2017, contributing to the 13 million business travelers who visited.
NYC & Company expects another year of growth, as 2018 is on track to see a 3.7 percent increase of visitors, totaling 65.1 million visitors.
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart