Vallone proposes tourism office to serve as intermediary between NYC tourists, businesses and agencies

Vallone EDC Hearing
Councilman Paul Vallone (Photo credit: New York City Council/Emil Cohen)

A Queens councilman proposed a new office that would accommodate the city’s ever-growing tourism industry and communicate the needs of tourists, local businesses and city agencies.

From 1998 to 2018, the number of tourists who came to New York City nearly doubled, from 33 million to 65.1 million and at an Oct. 23 meeting, Councilman Paul Vallone, chair of the Economic Development Committee, introduced a bill to create an Office of Interagency Tourism Affairs.

The office would undertake several responsibilities, including establishing a system to receive public comments and questions about tourism and relaying them to the respective city agencies.

The office would also coordinate agency communications and aid in the resolution of matters involving transportation, quality of life and other safety matters. An appointed director would run the tourism office and submit quarterly data reports on queries and comments received, response time and actions taken and a five-year growth and sustainability plan of New York City’s tourism industry.

If passed, the bill would take effect in 120 days.

“From a hot restaurant on Astoria Boulevard, to the Brooklyn Museum, to Aladdin on Broadway in Times Square, our local business owners and entertainment centers should have a dedicated place to turn to when faced with day-to-day city issues like reporting a lingering construction project or navigating the city’s permitting process,” said Vallone.

Currently, NYC & Company serves as the city’s tourism bureau and handles all aspects of marketing. The organization’s function is to maximize travel and tourism in the city, build economic prosperity and spread New York City’s image around the world.

“While NYC & Company continues to do great work promoting New York City from a large-scale advertising and marketing perspective, an Office of Interagency Tourism Affairs would provide focused coordination between city agencies and the business, arts and entertainment hubs that will contribute to continued success in our city’s tourism sector, as well as sustained quality of life for our New Yorkers,” Vallone said.

During the committee meeting, NYC & Company President and CEO Fred Dixon and NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) representative Sabrina Lippman expressed their support for Vallone’s bill.

“We do support the intent of the bill and we think there’s a lot of good things in there,” said EDC Vice President of Asset Management Lippman. “If we have those lines of communication with DOT, or with DCLA with any of our cultural institutions, we’ll be able to connect with them and field those [issues] to the appropriate agency.”

In 2018, tourists spent $46.4 billion when visiting and the tourism industry has grown to be the fourth-largest job sector in New York City, according to a report from the Center for an Urban Future.

“We also believe that establishing an Office of Interagency Tourism Affairs could be valuable if it elevates the importance of the tourism industry as a priority across city agencies, and it is done in a way that empowers NYC & Company,” said Jonathan Bowles, executive director at the Center for an Urban Future, in testimony.