New York: New York City could witness a decrease in the number of foreign tourists for the first time n seven years due to US President Donald Trump's rhetoric and tough stance on immigration, officials in New York believe.
The city's tourism marketing agency NYC & Company is changing its forecast for international visitors this year from positive to negative as it expects to draw 300,000 fewer foreigners than in 2016, when 12.7 million international visitors came to one of the most popular cities in the world, a report in the New York Times said.
This decline in foreign visitors could cost businesses in the city that cater to tourists at least USD 600 million in sales, the agency estimates.
NYC & Company chief executive Fred Dixon put the onus of the expected decline in foreign tourists on Trump's statements and actions, saying it had changed perceptions about the hospitality of the US just as prospective tourists are making vacation plans for 2017.
"The Europeans start coming to New York around Easter and continue through summer," Dixon said in an interview to NYT.
"That's when you'll see the rhetoric out of Washington really having an impact on travel."
Before Trump's election, the city had been expecting an increase of 400,000 foreign visitors in 2017, Dixon said. But an expected dip in this number could be very costly to the city's economy as foreign tourists stay longer and spend more freely than domestic tourists.
On average, foreigners spend about USD 2,000 in the city, compared with about USD 500 for Americans.
"We were looking forward to a really strong 2017," Dixon said in the report.
He said American tourism promoters were "just sort of holding our breath" in anticipation of a revision of Trump's aborted plan to ban arrivals from seven Muslim-majority countries. "Regardless of the specifics, it's pretty clear the message is going to be unwelcoming," Dixon said.
Apart from New York, even the rest of the country is expected to see an even larger decline in foreign tourism over the next two years, Adam Sacks, President of Tourism Economics an international firm that forecasts travel trends for several cities in the US, said.
He said the annual number of foreign visitors to the US could fall by 6.3 million between 2016 and 2018 because of reactions to Trump's words and actions, such as pledges to pull out of international trade agreements.
His executive order on the travel ban impacted tourists' interests in visiting the US even more, Sacks said.
"The data are all showing a pretty dramatic shift in behaviour and interest," he said. "That certainly accelerated since the executive order."
To combat the perception of a less hospitable climate, NYC & Company plans to start replacing some of its advertising overseas with billboards that declare that the city is "Welcoming the World."
"It's in our values and in our economic interest. We'll keep reminding visitors what we stand for, so we can keep this both the most internationally visited and the safest city in America," Alicia Glen, city's deputy mayor for housing and economic development, said.