Report: Queens workers benefiting from tourism growth

Report: Queens workers benefiting from tourism growth
A new report details the growing impact of tourism on the Queens economy while identifying certain challenges ahead in keeping to boom going.
Photo by Michael Shain
By Gina Martinez

The growth in tourism in New York City is benefitting Queens workers the most, according to a new report from the Center for an Urban Future.

The “Destination New York” report found that the record increase in tourism to the city over the last 20 years has created thousands of jobs in Queens and benefited Queens residents who work in tourism jobs throughout the city. The report reveals that 14,750 Queens residents work at hotels across the city, a significantly higher number of people more than in any other borough. Queens is also home to 3,272 accommodations jobs, up from 2,396 in 2000 for a 37 percent increase.

The report, which was funded by the Association for a Better New York and Times Square Alliance, found that the tourism boom has led to job growth at the city’s cultural attractions, restaurants and bars, and retail shops.

In Queens, the number of people working at restaurants and bars increased 88 percent from 24,033 jobs in 2000 to 45,276 jobs in 2016. Queens has also seen a 46 percent rise in jobs at museums, parks and historical sites, from 599 in 2000 to 875 in 2016. In retail, Queens added 12,863 jobs since 2000 for a 25 percent increase.

The study also revealed that the benefits of tourism has spread to many Queens neighborhoods. In Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, tourists are responsible for 12 percent of all spending in electronics stores and 10 percent of spending in discount stores. The report added that tourists are also responsible for 6 percent of all retail spending in those neighborhoods, totaling more than $23 million annually.

Rob MacKay. director of public relations, marketing and tourism at Queens Economic Development Corporation, said the report confirmed what he already knew about the borough.

“We now have more than 100 hotels,” he said. “Lonely Planet voted Queens as the country’s best tourism destination in 2015. The restaurant scene is the best in the world, that’s right, the world. We also have great cultural venues, parks and a revived Rockaways. Add micro breweries, a burgeoning art scene, the USTA, the Mets, a casino and proximity to a less-exciting borough that starts with an “M,” Queens really has something for everybody. It’s simply a great place to visit.”

The report said that while a growing number of tourists are visiting Queens, the tourism boom is also benefiting Queens residents who work elsewhere in the city. Queens is home to more hotel workers than any other borough, a sector where the average worker earns $62,000 per year. And 81 percent of city residents who are employed at hotels live outside Manhattan. There are 14,750 Queens residents working in the accommodations sector, significantly more than in any other borough, including Brooklyn, home to 10,986 hotel workers, Manhattan is home to 8,324 hotel workers, the Bronx home to 6,881 hotel workers, and Staten Island home to 1,819 hotel workers.

The report revealed how the city’s tourism boom over the past two decades has affected New York’s economy. The number of tourists visiting the city has increased from 33 million a year in the late 1990s to 62.7 million in 2017. This 90 percent increase in annual visitors has spurred the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs and elevated tourism into one of the four key drivers of New York City’s economy, according to the report.

The study also warned that New York’s tourism sector faces new challenges that could cause tourism to slip and jobs to decline. The strengthening dollar, the negative perceptions of the United States and overcrowding at the city’s airports are issues that need to be addressed, according to the report. The study also found that NYC has never adequately planned for a city with 60 million tourists a year, or made sufficient investments in its tourism infrastructure to sustain that many annual visitors.

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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