As NYC Tourism Reaches All-Time High, Experts Debate Long-Term Growth
The tourism industry is booming in New York City as 2011 saw a record number of visitors. But just how how high can the numbers grow? NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
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There are more tourists in New York City than ever before.
The tourism industry has been heavily promoted by Mayor Bloomberg.
"Tourism growth has been incredible over the last few years," said Fred Dixon of NYC and Company. "There is no doubt that visitation is greater than it has ever been in New York City."
Last year, 50.9 million people visited New York, compared to 36.2 million in 2000. That number is expected to rise to 55.9 million by 2015.
Tourism is now the city's fifth-largest industry and New York actively markets itself with 18 tourism offices overseas. Tourism accounts for $50 billion in overall economic impact and is responsible 320,000 jobs, 11 percent of all private employment.
But some fear that tourism may not be a reliable industry, especially as a substitute for financial services jobs, which have suffered through a tumultuous four-year period.
"All industries are going to be subject to ups and downs," said Seth Pinsky, the president of the New York State Economic Development Council. "The key is to make sure that you have as many industries as you can have that are successful in the city to insulate you against declines in any given industry."
Experts say it would be foolish for the city to turn down tourism dollars that people are willing to spend just to visit here. On the other hand, if anything was learned from the financial crisis, it's that New York should not rely too heavily on any one industry, particularly one that can be fleeting.
Some worry that the jobs generated by tourism and hospitality are not the kinds of jobs that provide long-term security.
"Certainly, we ought to be diversifying and looking for jobs that are more full-time jobs with a living wage and benefits," said State Sen. Kevin Parker. "And tourism, frankly, just doesn't provide that."
"We need to make sure we are creating jobs for people of all different skill levels," said Pinsky. "And we need to make sure that there are ladders to advancement in employment."
For now, the Bloomberg administration is aggressively marketing tourism. But it remains to be seen just how much the city will be able to rely on the benefits.