Europeans: Treat New York Like a Giant Bargain Basement!

It’s difficult for a hard-working New Yorker not to resent the hordes of British secretaries hogging up tables at restaurants and shouting at each other in Cockney accents from stall to stall in department-store fitting rooms, pockets crammed with fists-full of our weakling dollars. (O.K., that’s enough of that: We’re supposed to love the Brits this week.)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, however, seemed unperturbed today at the unveiling of a coupon package aimed at international tourists, and called “NYC Summer Breaks 2005.”

Under a blistering sun, he stood at South Street Seaport’s Pier 17, eagerly pimping the city for pounds and Euros.

“Visitors from overseas spend roughly five times what the domestic visitor spends,” he offered.

Michael Piazzola, vice president of the Seaport Marketplace, smiled in agreement as some curious tourists peered on. (You’d be curious, too, if you saw something at South Street Seaport that seemed interesting.)

NYC & Company and American Express will promote dozens of restaurants, shows, and clubs throughout the five boroughs. With a special card from the packet, customers will get a discount at included venues if they use an American Express card. NYC and Company will distribute them through their outposts in London, Munich, Milan and Paris. They also work with tourist offices in Mexico and Argentina.

“We still need to capture the international visitor,” said Chairman of NYC & Company Jonathan Tisch. “The international visitor stays longer and spends more.”

And walks slower on the sidewalk.

According to one American Express representative, 25 out of their 65 million total cardholders are from outside the U.S.

Predictably, the United Kingdom sends the most tourists to New York each year, followed by Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy and France, said Nancy Novogrod, Editor -in-Chief of Travel and Leisure magazine.

“Is Cirque du Soleil moving to the Seaport?” asked one onlooker, who claimed to be a Pier 17 tenant. “We want to know who’s moving in.”

Mayor Bloomberg — frighteningly well-known for his enthusiasm for the tarred-and-feathered circus-performers — said that was just a rumor, and added that he was not sure who was moving into a currently vacant storefront.

“Either Mr. Piazzola doesn’t know, or he is witholding,” he said.

He also pointed to plans to expand cruise ship facilities in Red Hook, Brooklyn as signs the city’s profile among international tourists has further yet to climb. (Welcome to Red Hook, Europe! Keep your wallet in your front pocket, please!)

– Sara Levin Europeans: Treat New York Like a Giant Bargain Basement!