New York City is heralding record tourist travel to New York for this year. But broken down by quarter (numbers exclusively reported by FiscalWatch for the moment, although anyone can ask the city for them), the figures tell a more sober story.

For the whole year, the number of visitors was up nearly 2 percent, to 46.9 million. But all of the growth was in the first two quarters of the year.

In January through March, travel was up 3.2 percent, from 11.7 million to 12.1 million, and in April through June, travel was up 13 percent, from 10.2 million to 11.5 million.

But things began to slump in the third quarter. From July through September, the number of visitors fell from 13.7 million last year to 13 million this year, or 4.8 percent. From October through December so far, the number fell 5.1 percent, from 10.8 million to 10.2 million.

NYC & Co. hasn’t yet broken down estimates of domestic vs. international tourism on a quarterly basis. For the full year, though, it reports international tourism up sharply — 12.4 percent, to 9.8 million people — with domestic tourism pretty much flat at 37 million.

This half of FW thinks, though, from regular walking commutes through Times Square and Rockefeller Center, that the number of domestic tourists, particularly from the immediate region accessible by a cheap bus trip, sharply increased in the fourth quarter, replacing a big foreign drop-off.

Bonus tidbit: the city only counts people as “tourists” if they travel more than 50 miles one way. But New York is obviously benefitting from people who live closer in (i.e. Westchester, Long Island) who opted against long trips elsewhere this year and in favor of short day trips into Manhattan with the kids and grandparents.

These figures won’t show up in the numbers, but they will benefit New York, if only slightly, since these people don’t spend as much, certainly, as, say, foreign tourists.


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The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.