2018-05-16 / Features

Report Details Tourism’s Impact on Queens Economy

A new report published by the Center for an Urban Future finds that the record increase in tourism to New York City over the past two decades has spurred thousands of jobs in Queens and benefited thousands of additional residents who work in tourism jobs elsewhere in the city. The report reveals that 14,750 Queens residents work at hotels across the city, significantly more than any other borough. Meanwhile, the borough is now home to 3,272 accommodations jobs—up from 2,396 in 2000—an increase of 876 jobs, or 37 percent.

The report, which was funded by the Association for a Better New York and Times Square Alliance, finds that the tourism boom has led to exponential job growth at the city’s cultural attractions, restaurants and bars, and retail shops. In Queens, the number of people working at restaurants and bars increased 88 percent, to 45,276 jobs in 2016, up from 24,033 jobs in 2000. Queens has also seen a 46 percent increase in jobs at museums, parks and historical sites, from 599 in 2000 to 875 in 2016. In retail, Queens added 12,863 jobs (a 25 percent increase) since 2000.

While a growing number of tourists are visiting Queens, the report also shows that the tourism boom is also benefiting locals who work elsewhere in the city. For instance, Queens is home to more hotel workers than any other borough, 14,750.

The report provides the first comprehensive analysis of how NYC’s tourism boom over the past two decades has impacted the economy. The number of tourists visiting the city has increased from 33 million a year in the late 1990s to 62.7 million in 2017. According to the report, this 90 percent increase in annual tourists has spurred hundreds of thousands of jobs and elevated tourism into one of the four key drivers of NYC’s economy. The study reveals that there are now more direct jobs in tourism (291,084) than in finance (268,200) and nearly twice as many jobs as in the city’s tech sector (128,600). It also shows that tourism has become an increasingly vital source of middle-income jobs in NYC.

However, the study also concludes that NYC’s tourism sector faces several new and evolving challenges that could cause tourism to slip and jobs to decline—from the strengthening dollar and growing negative perceptions of the US, to capacity problems at the city’s airports. And it finds that New York has never adequately planned for a city with 60 million tourists a year, or made sufficient investments in its tourism infrastructure to sustain this many annual visitors.

Among other key findings of the report:

Tourism has sparked much of the recent job growth in NYC’s key industries

Tourists are responsible for 24 percent of all sales at NYC restaurants and drinking places, according to the center’s analysis of Visa credit card transactions.

Tourists account for 18 percent of all Visa transactions at retail stores in the city. They account for an even higher share of sales at the department stores (48 percent), electronics stores (35 percent), and sporting goods stores (23 percent). International tourists alone account for 29 percent of all Visa transactions at the city’s jewelry stores.

The retail sector has experienced a net gain of 71,000 jobs since 2000, and much of this is due to tourists.

In recent years, tourists have given local retailers a key source of revenue at a time when many brick-and-mortar storefronts are losing business to online purchases.

The number of workers in the city employed by tour vans, double-decker buses, tourist boats, and other forms of sightseeing transport nearly doubled over the past 15 years. Incredibly, NYC accounted for 47 percent of the nation’s net job gains in this sector.

The enormous increase in tourists over the past couple of decades has even begun to spur growth in the city’s tech sector. The study identifies more than two dozen venture-backed travel-tech start-ups based in the city, 16 of which had been founded just in the last five years.

Tourism is a key source of middle class jobs that are accessible to a diverse mix of New Yorkers

The average hotel job in NYC pays $61,756, even more than a position in manufacturing ($57,807)—and the city has added more than 12,000 hotel jobs since 2000. There are now 51,000 hotel jobs citywide, making it one of the biggest sources of new middle class jobs.

More than 65 percent of NYC residents who work in tourism-related industries are people of color and 54 percent are immigrants, compared to 59 percent and 44 percent, respectively, of workers in other sectors. The full report, titled Destination New York, is here: nycfuture.org/research/destination-newyork.

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