With 43 million visitors last year, New York City is a destination that needs no promotion. But the city of over-achievers is not satisfied with the status quo. It wants to attract 50 million tourists by the year 2015, and with them, their tourist dollars. VOA's Paige Kollock reports on the city's campaign to increase visitors.
New York City's new advertising campaign, celebrates the virtues of Manhattan, and is aimed at attracting international tourists.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently said, "This campaign, our multi-media campaign, is one designed to make tourists to our city feel more welcome, help them enjoy their stays and thank them for visiting our city."
The city has launched a program called "Just Ask the Locals." It uses celebrities to encourage visitors to ask New Yorkers about their city.
Tourists say it is working. "We have been absolutely amazed at how friendly people have been,” said a recent visitor. “When they see us with our map and they say, 'Do you need help?' or 'Can we tell you where to go?'"
The city's tourism agency, called "NYC and Company," has launched a new advertising campaign, with TV commercials airing in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Britain and Ireland. Research shows that travelers from those countries tend to stay longer and spend more money. City officials say the $25 million a year tourism industry is vital because it supports about 350,000 jobs.
Chris Heywood of NYC & Company says that helps put money back in New Yorkers' pockets.
"People don't necessarily know the economics of tourism, and when you put it into perspective, it really saves the average household in New York City about $950 in annual taxes a year,” he told us. “So by having tourists here in the city, it actually helps offset taxes here and makes the city more manageable to run."
International tourists on the streets of New York may not agree that the city is manageable, but many tourists do find New Yorkers welcoming -- a contrast to their reputation for rudeness.
"It's a little bit too large, it's a little bit complicated, but the folks are very polite," said one.
"Everyone is really friendly -- you know, hustle and bustle. Don't know that I could live here for a long period of time, but it's really good to visit," said another.
The tourists may love New Yorkers, but how do the eight million residents feel about the additional influx of people?
"It's bad enough, you can't cross the street, everyone is always pushing you, everyone's in a rush. To have more people here -- we won't be able to move!" said one resident.
Another New Yorker said, "With the exchange rate, with the pound in Great Britain and the Euro, we have plenty of tourists coming in from Europe right now. Having more obviously is helpful for the New York economy, but there is a limit in terms of the services in New York: transportation, access to the theater, to cultural events."
Mayor Bloomberg says more than half of all the tourism dollars spent in New York last year were generated by international visitors -- visitors who may have previously relied on guidebooks to help them, but who can now "Just Ask the Locals."