If you’d like to see an example of the benefits that flow from having a well-run, safe and solution-oriented city, look no further than the Japanese, German, British, Dutch, French, Venezuelan, Taiwanese, Australian and Norwegian tourists standing in front of you at Starbucks tomorrow morning.
Thanks largely to the city’s low crime rate and stellar international reputation, New York’s foreign tourists are spending money like crazy. And thanks to those free-spending visitors, the city’s economy is being buffered from the economic winds that are rattling the foundations of other major U.S. cities.
Two hundred thousand more foreign tourists visited our fair city in the first three months of 2008 than in the first quarter of 2007, and they spent $560 million more in those first three months than they did over the same period last year. Indeed, while the number of foreign visitors to popular U.S. cities such as Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago showed a steep decline from 2000 to 2006, New York’s numbers have continued to increase.
Yes, the influx of foreign visitors and cash has been assisted by a weak dollar against the euro. But the fact that those tourists are choosing to spend their euros in New York—as opposed to other marquee U.S. cities—says a lot about how the city has been governed over the past several years. While Rudolph Giuliani’s mayoralty was a decidedly mixed blessing, his focus on taking a managerial, results-oriented approach to crime yielded tremendous dividends for the city’s international reputation. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, working hand in hand with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, has continued to lower crime to levels not seen since the early 1960s, while bringing about a significant boost in civility.
The financial harvest from booming tourism nurtures all levels of the economy. When they’re not buying $200 blue jeans and dinners at Le Bernardin, a number of those overseas visitors are buying real estate, in the form of the city’s top-end condos, sales of which are helping keep our housing market robust. Equally important, tourism creates thousands of entry-level jobs in hotels, retail and restaurants.
And at a time when much of the world feels dangerously fractured and splintered into embittered factionalism, the thriving and boisterous presence of a stunning array of international visitors here reinforces the global fabric of New York, and sets an inspiring and workable example for what a city of the 21st century can become.