Tech in New York is innovating all of the economy’s major sectors, and travel and tourism is no exception.
A panel of travel and tourism industry experts at this year’s Crain’s Future of New York City Conference, agreed that social media and other technology increases access to New York and has helped grow the tourism industry in the city. In 2014 nearly 55 million visitors came to New York.
“I think it plays a big role,” said Daniel L. Doctoroff, who was joined on the panel by Jonathan Tisch, Chairman of Loews Hotels, and Drew Nieporent, Owner of Myriad Restaurant Group. “Whether it is just being aware of New York, being able to access New York physically, being able to find places to stay, the more people who appreciate this place at the end of the day, the bigger the pride becomes and the better it is overall for the tourism industry,” Doctoroff said.
Doctoroff noted that the highline, the elevated park that runs through Manhattan’s lower west side, is now the ninth most instagrammed sight in the world. “This is a park that did not exist seven years ago,” Doctoroff said.
Technology is also changing the way people in the industry view tourists who keep their businesses running, said Nieporent. “Technology now gives us the opportunity to see the area codes, so we know where the people are coming from. So if we cop an attitude like we did 30 years ago then, that we don’t want these people, we want this to be a New York restaurant, blah, blah, blah, that would be idiotic,” said Nieporent.
And tech and tourism couldn’t be discussed without bringing up Airbnb, the popular social rental-listing site. Doctoroff said the site is positive for the tourism industry in New York and hasn’t caused a disruption. He said that despite the site accommodating tens of thousands of people staying in New York City, the hotel and occupancy rates in the city are near their all time high. In over the last 12 years hotel rooms in the city have grown from 55,000 hotel rooms to 103,000, Doctoroff said.
But Tisch disagreed. “There is a role for it, and we understand the demand, but also they’re not creating hotel jobs. And a hotel job is a very good job,” Tisch said of Airbnb. About 325,000 men and women currently work in travel and tourism in New York, Tisch said.
And that number is expected to grow if trends continue. “There are more jobs created faster in travel and tourism in the last couple of years than any other segment of the economy,” Doctoroff said.
When asked if he saw a future for such sites as Airbnb in New York five years into the future, Tisch didn’t seem optimistic. He said currently, “they are creating demand in places where, I guess, hotels at a very low rate are not.” But Tisch said that is going to change as hotels continue to expand into the outer boroughs and as big-name brands like Hilton and Marriot are coming out with products that are aimed to attract millennials.
Doctoroff added that currently there are 24 hotels in Long Island City and 17 in development. He described the area as, “blossoming.”
“I think technology actually for New York is overwhelmingly a great thing because we have a product here that people want,” Doctoroff said.