Skift Take

The picture of U.S. inbound travel overall is not particularly bright. But New York City has proved uniquely equipped to weather the storm.

There’s a bright spot in the U.S. tourism picture, and it’s New York City. The city’s destination marketing arm, NYC & Company, reports that New York is on track to reach a record number of visitors in 2019, just shy of 67 million.

The figure is a 2.8 percent increase from 2018, and the city’s 10th consecutive year of growth in arrivals. An email to members noted that the trend of visitors was “outpacing the U.S. overall.” It also reported that international arrivals are on the uptick, with an expected 13.9 million visitors by the end of the year, an increase of 2.3 percent year on year.

New York City’s tourism growth is set against the backdrop of a negative overall outlook for arrivals in the U.S. As the U.S. Travel Association reported earlier this month, international arrivals are forecasted to grow just 0.2 percent in 2019 (though that’s expected to rebound slightly in 2020). In addition, another forecast released by the non-profit trade group in early August found that “international inbound travel decreased in June (-0.8 percent), marking the third month of contraction in the first six months of 2019.” That pace of growth is “expected to remain constrained and may dip into negative territory” as the year progresses.

Reasons for the nationwide cooling are a strong dollar, the trade war, as well as fears of a recession and geopolitical tensions. While New York City is still affected somewhat by those factors — amidst its markedly rosier picture, it did report to members that “visitors are spending less per trip” — it has managed to remain in a state of expansion.

Industry insiders say the reason for that is that New York City is uniquely positioned to weather downturns such as this one. It’s the country’s leading port of entry for visitors, it’s easy to get to, and it has had a slew of marquee events in 2019 to draw in international visitors, such as World Pride, as well as the opening of demand generators like the TWA Hotel and Hudson Yards. Chris Heywood, executive vice president of global communications for NYC & Company, told Skift the marketing arm remains “bullish in outlook.”

As for China — New York City’s second biggest inbound market — the city still expects to see growth of 4.1 percent in Chinese visitors this year. While that is a slightly slower rate of growth than previous years, it’s still counter to the decline reported for the U.S. as a whole by the Commerce Department’s National Travel and Tourism Office. British travelers, the city’s biggest inbound market, are also also expected to increase (also slightly more modestly) despite Brexit.


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Tags: china, new york city, tourism, trade war, u.s. travel

Photo credit: Autumn in Central Park gigi_nyc / Flickr

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