New York braces itself for slump in tourism

New York City's tourism marketing agency NYC & Co expects to draw 300,000 fewer foreigners this year than last, when 12.7 million international visitors came.
New York City's tourism marketing agency NYC & Co expects to draw 300,000 fewer foreigners this year than last, when 12.7 million international visitors came.PHOTO: AFP

Officials say Trump's policies and rhetoric are scaring off foreign visitors to the city

NEW YORK • For the first time in seven years, New York City officials expect the number of foreign visitors to decrease, a drop they attribute to the protectionist policies and words of United States President Donald Trump.

They say those moves are scaring off many of the tourists who have helped fuel the city's robust growth since the last recession.

On Tuesday, the city's tourism marketing agency, NYC & Co, announced that its forecast for international visitors had turned from positive to negative since Mr Trump was elected in November.

The city now expects to draw 300,000 fewer foreigners this year than last, when 12.7 million international visitors came, a decline that will cost businesses that cater to tourists at least US$600 million (S$845 million) in sales, the agency estimates.

Mr Fred Dixon, the chief executive of NYC & Co, said Mr Trump's statements and actions had changed perceptions about the hospitality of the US just as prospective tourists are making vacation plans for this year.

"The Europeans start coming to New York around Easter and continue through summer," Mr Dixon said in an interview. "That's when you'll see the rhetoric out of Washington really having an impact on travel."

He said US tourism promoters were "just sort of holding our breath" in anticipation of a revision of Mr Trump's aborted plan to bar arrivals from seven mostly Muslim countries. "Regardless of the specifics, it's pretty clear the message is going to be unwelcoming," he said.

The city now expects to draw 300,000 fewer foreigners this year than last, when 12.7 million international visitors came, a decline that will cost businesses that cater to tourists at least US$600 million (S$845 million) in sales, the agency estimates.

News reports about that plan could further dampen interest in visiting New York City, which is the most popular US destination for foreign tourists, Mr Dixon said.

White House officials did not respond to requests for comment.

The rest of the country is expected to see an even larger decline in foreign tourism over the next two years, said Mr Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics, an international firm that forecasts travel trends for several cities in the US, including New York.

He said the annual number of foreign visitors could fall by 6.3 million from 2016 to 2018 because of reactions to Mr Trump's words and actions, such as pledges to pull out of international trade agreements.

"We're going to be looking at a very challenging year for US travel," Mr Sacks said. He said indicators of interest in visiting the US, including online searches for airline tickets and hotels, started dropping after the election. They dipped again after Mr Trump's inauguration and fell further after he signed an executive order starting the travel ban, Mr Sacks said.

To combat the perception of a less hospitable climate, NYC & Co plans to replace some of its advertising overseas with billboards that declare that the city is "welcoming the world". Mr Dixon said the city was "doubling down on our welcome message".

"We were looking forward to a really strong 2017," Mr Dixon said. "Travel is a very precious commodity and people have choices. Once the vacation of 2017 is gone, you don't get that back."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2017, with the headline 'New York braces itself for slump in tourism'. Print Edition | Subscribe