New York City adapts as tourist numbers soar

On The Move

New York City adapts as tourist numbers soar

New York is wary of over tourism as the number of its visitors grows.

The number of visitors to New York City has been beating records every year since 2009. By some estimates, it is now the top U.S. destination among international travelers. This marks a dramatic turnaround from decades past when tourists worried about safety. CGTN’s Karina Huber has more on how New York City has became an even hotter global hotspot and what its popularity means for residents. 

“Last year, we welcomed 63 million visitors. It generates about $65 billion in total economic impact. It generates more than 369,000 jobs every year. It is definitely an economic engine for New York City,” said Christopher Heywood, senior VP of Global Communications at NYC & Company.

What turned things around was a drop in crime, the revitalization of Times Square into a more family-friendly destination and the success of shows like Sex & The City, which featured New York prominently.

Tourism took a hit after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and suffered another blow after the global financial crisis, but since 2009 the number of visitors to New York has been rising.

Not everyone is happy. Some residents have complained about the influx.

“There is a volume of people and one really feels it especially over the last two or three years,” said one resident.

“The massive increase in tourists over the past ten years has exacerbated a long time problem in the city, which is affordable rent,” said another.

Tourists often stay in Airbnb, which critics say, is taking homes off the market for residents and pushing rents higher.

Some are questioning whether New York will become a victim of its own success and suffer the same fate as Barcelona, Reykjavik and Dubrovnik—all cities that are experiencing overtourism and where residents are pushing back.

Heywood says the city takes “overtourism” seriously but says New York is very different from other European cities grappling with too many visitors.

“They’re very small city centers that may be overrun with visitors and they’re just not designed to accommodate that. New York City is. We have 116 thousand hotel rooms with another 20,000 on the way,” said Heywood.

Nevertheless, it is a concern. To mitigate any future problems, the city is encouraging visitors to come in the off-season through various promotions. It is also marketing other less frequented areas like Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island to relieve some of the congestion in Manhattan.

Whether this will be enough to shield New York from a problem plaguing other hot destinations, is unclear. What we can say for sure is that New Yorkers, not known for being shy, will be the first to let us know. 

Jonathan Tourtellot discusses how cities are dealing with overtourism

CGTN’S Rachelle Akuffo spoke with Jonathan Tourtellot, founder and CEO of the Destination Stewardship Center about overtourism.

How New Yorkers feel about tourists in the Big Apple