Summer in New York: Eye on Tourism

With New York's tourism appeal at an all-time high, the city is brimming with new facilities, services and values that can help agents sell New York while increasing their clients' enjoyment of the Big Apple. Following is a sampling of current offerings.

Agents' Sales Tools

Agents who are promoting the Big Apple to their clients can order a new 14-minute film from the New York Convention & Visitors Bureau Called "New York City ... Come Visit the World," and narrated by James Earl Jones, it provides an overview of the city's attractions, activities and people. Celebrities making guest appearances include New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, actor/director Robert DeNiro, builder/hotelier Donald Trump, "Today Show" co-host Katie Couric, meteorologist Al Roker, Jonathan Tisch, president and CEO of Loews Hotels, and fashion designer Nicole Miller. To obtain the video, call (800) NYC-VISIT.

Joining the NYCVB's Millennium Club is a good way to get the latest news on millennium celebrations planned by New York City restaurants, hotels and attractions. To receive detailed information and the bureau's newspaper, "What's New in New York," send $20 to the bureau (see below) ATT: Millennium Club.

Broadway theater is booming, and agents who want to make sure their theater-going clients are up on all the newest hit shows can do so by calling these information numbers set up by the League of American Theaters and Producers: (888) BROADWAY, or (212) 302-4111.

Tips for Clients

Thanks to its success last summer, "Insider's Hour," a program designed to help visitors make the best use of their time in New York, is being repeated this year. From July through September, more than 40 participating cultural institutions, including museums, performing-arts venues, botanical gardens, zoos and historical sites, will offer guided one-hour tours of their facilities. For more information, contact the NYCVB.

Although visitors are often skeptical about New York's subway system, savvy residents use it all the time, chiefly because it's usually the fastest way of getting around town. With the introduction of the money-saving MetroCard, visiting clients also have an incentive to get on board. The MetroCard is good for use on both the subways and city buses. The regular fare on both is $1.50, but with the card, riders get such bonuses as free transfers between trains and buses and one free ride for every $15 purchase.

Also, MetroCard vending machines in the subway stations dispense unlimited-ride MetroCards, available for one day at $4, seven days for $17 and 30 days for $63. The cards also are available at certain other locations. For information on where to buy a card, call (212) METROCARD, or access the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Web site at www.mta.nyc.ny.us.

Attractions

One of New York's most venerable landmarks, Grand Central Terminal, completed a $200 million restoration and facelift last fall. Grand Central Terminal opened in 1913 and its original Sky Ceiling, adorned with the heavenly constellations, now sparkles again; the marble balustrades and nickel- and gold-plated chandeliers shine brightly, and light streams through the terminal's enormous windows. New facilities include Michael Jordan's Steakhouse and about 100 specialty stores, restaurants and retail outlets, including branches of Banana Republic, Kenneth Cole and Godiva Chocolates. For information on free tours of the terminal, call the Grand Central Partnership at (212) 883-2468.

Next year, the former Queens home of one of America's great jazz legends, Louis Armstrong, will open as a museum. Armstrong, who lived for years in Corona, is just one of many jazz musicians associated with the borough. Others who lived in Queens include Billie Holliday, Fats Waller, Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie, who, like Armstrong, is buried in Flushing Cemetery. For more on Queens, its jazz legends and other attractions, contact the Queens Tourism Council at (800) 454-1329 or (718) 647-3387.

It may not look like the Napa Valley, but New York's Lower East Side has one thing in common with Northern California's grape-growing region: a famous winery. This year, Schapiro's Winery will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its founding by a Polish immigrant, Samuel Schapiro, who opened it as part of a restaurant in 1899. In 1907, he closed the restaurant and moved the winery -- Schapiro's House of Kosher Wine -- to 126 Rivington St., where it has remained ever since. Schapiro's, which is now run by the original patriarch's grandson, offers Sunday tours of its cellars, which are stocked with about 110 wine tanks. Tastings are also available. The winery carries traditional sweet kosher

Concord grape wines, as well as the French and Italian varieties it has been selling since the 1980s. Call (212) 674-4404.

One of the icons of New York's glamorous heyday is back. Night Owls at El Morocco recently opened on the site of the original El Morocco at 307 E. 54 St. The club was acquired last year by an investor from Ireland who undertook a complete renovation and restoration. For decades, from the 1930s through the 1970s, the night spot's famous zebra-striped banquettes were graced by such entertainers as Joan Crawford, Natalie Wood and Errol Flynn, usually photographed sipping martinis or champagne from El Morocco's signature champagne flutes. Call (212) 355-1254.

Clients who are art and antiques buffs can stop in at a Wendy Antiques Show, held on scheduled dates throughout the year at the 7th Regiment Armory on Park Avenue and 67th Street and other venues around the New York area. Specialties include 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century American and European furniture, paintings and decorative accessories as well as rare books. For schedules and other information, call (914) 698-3442.

New Facilities

This spring, the NYCVB opened a visitors center at its headquarters where clients can speak with multilingual counselors and obtain brochures, maps and admission tickets to top attractions. In cooperation with American Express, the CVB installed touch-screen kiosks -- NYC VisitorNet -- which visitors can use to access information about the city as well as admission tickets to various attractions. Eventually about 20 such kiosks will be installed at key locations throughout the five boroughs. There is also an American Express ATM cash dispenser on site and an NYC Store featuring New York City-themed merchandise.

The bureau also opened a visitors center late last year in London at 33-34 Carnaby St., where representatives provide sales and marketing expertise to the travel industry and information and literature to consumers.

Summer in New York: New York CVB Information

New York Convention & Visitors Bureau, 810 Seventh Ave., New York 10019; (800) NYCVISIT to order material; (212) 484-1200 for information and assistance (agents should ask for the tourism department); fax (212) 246-6310; www.nycvisit.com, and www.newyork.citysearch.com.

The bureau also has offices in Chicago (312-372-2200) and Washington (202-530-0222).

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