Overcrowding, Poor Transit Hurt Tourism

14-Center-for-Urban-FutureA rendering of the new LaGuardia Airport

BY JON CRONIN

The Center for an Urban Future released a report this month that noted that tourism was up in the five boroughs, but included some pointers on how the city could be more accommodating to its visitors.

A portion of the report recommended how to sustain the city’s tourism boom and highlighted a lack of amenities, overcrowding and poor transit connections to John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports.  

The report stated that in comparison to other global hubs and other U.S. airports, transit, amenities such as Wi-Fi and traveler processing are slower and less efficient in both of New York City’s airports.

It also criticized the poor infrastructure of the New York City subway system and its inherent delays.

“These transit deficiencies have begun to affect tourists’ perceptions of New York, according to numerous interviews,” the report stated.  

Rob MacKay—the director of public relations, marketing and tourism for the Queens Economic Development Corporation—told the PRESS of Southeast Queens he thought that the Center for an Urban Future’s report was mostly positive, and that he wasn’t concerned about the overwhelming traffic resulting from tourists.  

“The other side of that is that traffic is a good problem to have,” said MacKay. “No one coming to your town is a problem.”  

He said that one issue affecting tourism is crime. He noted that if the city saw another crime wave, tourism could drop. MacKay noted that the city gets many tourists from such countries as France, Germany, England and Belgium. He added that if one tourist from any of those countries were killed while on vacation in the city, it could seriously affect tourism from that specific nation.  

He said that a terrorist attack would devastate the hotel industry. He believes that many hotels would not survive a three-month drought of tourism.  

The report also noted that the city’s tourism agency, NYC and Co., had its public funding increased by Mayor Bill de Blasio from $12.3 million in 2014 to $21.5 million in 2018, and now has a total budget of $38.6 million. It still falls short of the amount that other major cities around the globe spend.

“New York City and Co. is the most functional government agency that I work with. The proof is in the pudding. I’m not worried about public spending,” MacKay said.

The report pointed out that Los Angeles spends $49.7 million and Barcelona allocates $78 million for tourism. It noted that Denver—which has a population of approximately 682,000—spends close to $0 per resident, while New York City—which has a population of 8.5 million—spends approximately $4.50 per resident.

MacKay noted that New York City spends hundreds of millions of dollars on the city’s promotion through private funding for the multitude of its attractions.  

He said that in Queens, one of the most significant issues is the proliferation of hotels.

“That’s a lot of competition just among themselves,” he said. “A lot of these hotels are becoming shelters. There’s an oversaturation of the market.”

Regarding traffic and infrastructure, MacKay noted that “in the case of Queens, we’ve always had bad infrastructure.”

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