New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today that Fred Dixon will be the new chief executive of the city’s official tourism and marketing organization NYC & Company.
Dixon took over as interim CEO of NYC & Co following previous CEO George Fertitta, who announced his departure in December to join outgoing mayor Michael Bloomberg’s consulting company.
When Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Dixon’s appointment, he praised the work NYC & Co. had done promoting neighborhoods outside of Manhattan. “I’m a particular fan of the ‘Neighborhood by Neighborhood’ program,” de Blasio said, “because it showcases the outer boroughs—some people call it the ‘outer boroughs.’ Some of the rest of us call it ‘home.’”
What’s ahead for Dixon? The city is on track to reach another arrival record in 2014 with 55 million tourists expected to visit this year. He’ll also have to deal with de Blasio’s unpopular promise (at least to PETA and Liam Neeson fans) to get rid of horse-drawn carriages.
He’ll also be charged with pushing tourism outside of Times Square and other traditionally popular tourist destinations. As apartment rental sites like Airbnb have demonstrated, visitors are interested in neighborhoods outside of Midtown. When announcing Dixon’s appointment, the new mayor repeatedly spoke of neighborhoods locals love, but visitors may not:
“Fred told me about this wonderful emerging interest that’s taking so much more shape in the hip-hop history of the Bronx. We have so many things to be proud of in New York City, we literally gave birth to a whole genre of music. There’s so many people around the world who relate to that and care about it — how can we make it a great blessing for the Bronx and deepen the tourism industry there?
“How are we going to take the extraordinary new attraction that the Wheel will be in Staten Island and make it something that really deepens the stays that people spend on Staten Island and makes it an extraordinary focus point for development on Staten Island.
“How do we take the incredible diversity of Queens, the foodies already know it, the foodies seem to be obsessed with Jackson Heights, have you noticed that? You just sort of grab a random foodie on the subway, they’re probably going to Jackson Heights. How do we maximize that? We’re going to push very hard to do everything we can do from the perspective of City Hall to deepen that five borough focus in tourism.”
Hospitality and tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in New York City and Dixon’s leadership will be instrumental into turning that growth into jobs for city residents. De Blasio said today, “We have to find a way to train more people, both through our public schools and other tools, to come into this industry to take advantage of it.”
Dixon will also have to consider the city’s rising number of high-spending visitors from Brazil and China. Brazil became the city’s second most important overseas market after the UK in 2013. And they’re spending as much as traditional spenders like British and Australian tourists.
NYC & Company’s Past Leadership
NYC & Company’s former CEO and president George Fertitta stepped down on January 1 as part of the city’s administrative transition. Former EVP of market development Fred Dixon served as interim CEO.
Fertitta was at the helm for seven years starting in 2006 when the city’s three separate tourism organizations merged to create NYC & Company.
In that time, visitor arrivals grew more than 18 percent to reach a record 54.3 million visitors. Hotel development grew 30 percent to a record 93,000 rooms and New York City’s share of overseas travel increased from 18 to 33 percent.
Fertitta also oversaw the creation of NYC & Company’s Neighborhood X Neighborhood initiative, the creation of the city’s official travel website nycgo.com, and the launch of NYC & Company’s country-specific social media accounts.