NEW YORK -- It's a
British invasion here for the holidays -- and, at least in part,
it's thanks to the powerful pound.
international arrivals to New York are up. Chris Heywood, director,
international and domestic public relations, travel and tourism at
NYC and Company, said international arrivals were expected to reach
as high as 8 million this year, up from 7.3 million in
The U.K., New
York's top international market, is expected to grow 5% this year
to 1.23 million visitors; that's up from 1.17 million in
The city's 12
Marriott properties have seen a 15% hike in U.K. business over last
year, according to Kathleen Duffy, Marriott's director of public
relations, New York City. From other countries, the rise is more
dramatic -- 41% from France, 60% from Italy and 69% from
by NYC & Company shows shopping as the second most-popular
activity in the Big Apple, following dining out. For U.K. visitors
in particular, 95% list dining out as a trip "activity," followed
by shopping at 92%.
And why not New
York for the holidays? According to the exchange rates
posed on XE.com
last week, one British pound would buy the equivalent of $2.08,
giving British travelers a discount on shopping, hotel rooms and
lattes at Starbucks.
meanwhile, equaled $1.48, giving other European visitors a break on
"There is no doubt
that New York is having a good few months, and the holidays will
hopefully be even better," said Geoff Freeman, executive director
of the Discover America Partnership, an inbound tourism advocacy
group in Washington.
At least three
factors are playing in New York's favor, he said. First, New York
"runs one of the best [tourism] promotion programs in the world
today." Another is New York's position as a top gateway
However, he said,
New York's success, particularly in the U.K., may be largely due to
the declining dollar.
said it was hard to determine if overseas visitors were arriving
this holiday season simply because the dollar is weak and to what
extent they were coming specifically to shop.
here, even business travelers," she said.
But Bath Travel in
Bournemouth, England, does come specifically to shop. The agency
organized a shopping tour to New York after 9/11 to show solidarity
with the city. The group traveled in November that year, occupying
70 Marriott rooms, according to Duffy.
Since then, she
said, the agency has operated two shopping trips a year to New
York. Last month's group required 220 rooms, triple the number of
the first visit.
president of the Madison Avenue Business Improvement District, said
that when it comes to New York, "you can never say it is one thing"
that drives a visitor's decision to come to town.
said, stores on upscale Madison Avenue see international customers
buying more. "The stores are very busy," as are the avenue's
restaurants and hotels, he said.
well positioned to report a 35% uptick in the number of foreign
shoppers in its aisles this season with their spending growing
still faster. As for U.K. results, in particular, David Ender,
media consultant for the iconic New York department store, said
only, "I wish we could release numbers, because they are off the
which has maintained its International Visitors Center since the
early 1990s, relocated, expanded and upgraded the facility two
years ago. It is a 2,100-square-foot, club-like space offering
multilingual assistance to shoppers, savings certificates, gifts
with purchases and some concierge services.
At Saks Fifth
Avenue, Caroline Dougherty, vice president of public relations and
special events for the store, said that the New York store
"benefits from the weak dollar," and its sales are "trending" above
companywide averages "driven, in part, by robust international
The W Hotels in New
York, seeing the potential benefits from a declining dollar,
earlier this year launched a package called W and the City for sale
overseas. It was marketed only outside the U.S. and featured on
international Web sites.
The package was so
successful it was extended 12 months to June 2008, a spokeswoman
She also said that,
in an informal survey, W's New York concierges reported that
international travelers most frequently request information on
shopping, followed by restaurants, clubs and theaters.
Beyond New York
Arguably, as the
dollar continues to decline in value, it is likely that inbound
arrivals to the U.S., which for the past six years have been soft,
contended that such a recovery would only be temporary.
In the long term,
the Travel Industry Association said New York's rising U.K.
arrivals were not enough to make up for what the rest of the U.S.
has lost in recent years.
"The numbers are
still not coming back in the way you'd think they would," said
Richard Webster, the TIA's senior vice president of government
Webster, British overseas travel to the U.S. was down by 11% since
2000, the strongest year for inbound tourism.
"The U.S. has been
essentially having a fire sale," Webster said. "Like Filene's
Basement or Nordstrom Rack, we have been on this huge sale." But
despite bargain prices, Webster said, relatively few travelers from
the U.K. and other top inbound markets were buying.
"Imagine if the
dollar hadn't been so weak," Webster said. "I can't imagine what
the numbers would be right now."
No other city is
reporting the type of results New York is, Freeman said.
"We think what New
York is doing is fantastic. But I don't think any of us should see
a declining dollar as the solution to our travel woes."
contact the reporters who wrote this article, send e-mail to Nadine
Godwin at [email protected] or Michael Milligan at [email protected].