The new 2,000-square-foot visitors center--a $1.8 million renovation between office buildings and a restaurant on Seventh Avenue at 53rd Street--opened Wednesday with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other dignitaries on hand to talk up the city's tourism program and demonstrate a row of four-foot wide touch-sensitive interactive tables and interactive kiosks.
Developed by Google and featuring Google Earth technical magic, the tables allow visitors to search the city and surrounding boroughs digitally with a virtual map that can be dragged and expanded. Users can pull up points of interest, create an itinerary and save it to any handheld device or a special disc by placing it on a demarcated circle at the table's center, then print, save or email it. Digital agency New York-based Huge handled the program and the new site, www.nycgo.com.
The site is kept current by an in-house editorial team and with content from sources like "Time Out, NY," "Paper Magazine" and The New York Observer. It has a cultural calendar via the city Department of Cultural Affairs, a "My NYC" section and user reviews.
At Wednesday's press conference, Mayor Bloomberg said that about 47 million people visited the city last year, including nearly 10 million from overseas, and that tourism brings in $28 billion per year to the city and supports 350,000 jobs in the larger metro area. The city is expanding its tourism bureaus in 18 cities worldwide, including the U.S., and sales offices on the West Coast. There will also be a marketing campaign touting the new site and the city itself. Tag: "Ask New York City About New York City."
Bloomberg said the new efforts are necessary because consumers have many other options that are easy to learn about. "In the old days we could say 'This is New York,' and not do anything," he said. "Now people have options: they can go on the Internet [to research other destinations], fly to anywhere in the world. So we are going to continue improving visitors' experience in the months ahead."
He said New York did not pay for the $1.8 million renovation, but that it came through New York City & Company member organizations.
George Fertitta, CEO of NYC & Co., says he expects the www.nycgo.com site to generate $1.7 million in yearly ad revenue, and that NYC & Co. is getting $9.5 million of free advertising at airports like JFK, which NYC & Co. will use to promote the city and the site. Also, partners like Google and Travelocity will promote the new Web site.
Bloomberg said ads will also be on bus shelters, The History Channel, and possibly around sporting events like the Subway Series.
He conceded that the economy has hurt tourism. "Hotel occupancy is down; stores are going through tough times. We aren't immune to what happens outside the city: If the economy in China is slowing down, if the Russian economy slows down, it hurts us because those people used to come here."