At an afternoon press conference in Times Square Tuesday, Mayor Bloomberg presented a golden ticket to a British couple who were the 50 millionth tourists to enter NYC. While boasting about the Big Apple being the number one destination for international visitors, praising Manhattan institutions such as Rockefeller Center and the Museum of Modern Art, he neglected to mention the other four boroughs, including Queens.
Jack Friedman, the executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, is not surprised about the snub. Despite having famous attractions such as Citi Field and the Museum of the Moving Image, he said that NYC and Company, the city’s official tourism marketing organization, only focuses on Manhattan.
“There are plenty of things for tourists to do, but the city has spent most of its time and energy to promote Manhattan venues and excluding Queens from its marketing efforts,” Friedman said.
He said that NYC & Company is “95 percent Manhattan focused,” pointing out that most of the website is devoted to Manhattan venues.
“They spend very little time or effort on any of the other boroughs,” Friedman said, adding that most of the money allocated to tourism is spent on Manhattan, with a small amount going to the borough presidents’ offices as a grant. “Queens does not have any money marketing itself as a destination area.”
Even though LaGuardia and JFK airports, two major travel hubs are located in Queens, tourists spend little time in the borough, Friedman said.
“What happens is people come into [LaGuardia and JFK Airport], take a taxi to Manhattan, and spend none of their money in the borough,” he said. “We have to change that.”
He said that 2012 will be that year of change. “There’s a whole concerted hospitality effort for the year, which we are hoping will revamp the image of Queens,” Friedman stated.
With the Aqueduct casino opening recently, LaGuardia becoming Delta Air Lines’ new domestic hub and a convention center planned for Willets Point, Friedman said that Queens will be able to compete with major Manhattan sites such as the Jacob Javits Center.
“[The NYC Regional Economic Council] recognized Queens as an area which offers opportunity, whether it be at Willets Point or at Aqueduct,” he said.
“Now we have an attraction that’s competitive with everything.”
When the U.S. Open begins matches every August, people from all over the world flock to Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows Park to see the top tennis players in the world compete.
Friedman said the chamber is going to seize the opportunity to promote Queens through food at the next US Open.
“Another effort is getting tourists to recognize the diversity of Queens through its restaurants,” the chamber chief said.
He said borough officials want to take the slogan “Visit Queens, discover the world,” to the next step.
The chamber plans to promote the 7 train at the U.S. Open next year to get visitors to recognize the many different ethnic cuisines of Queens.
“You can only eat so many hot dogs with Dijon mustard after getting sick of them,” Friedman joked.