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Tourism council looks to draw Manhattan visitors to Queens

Members of the Golden Chinese Acrobats show off their stuff at the Queens Tourism Council's kick-off for its Real Culture/Authentic Flavor promotion. Photo by Yinghao Luo
TimesLedger Newspapers

Of the 50 million visitors to New York City last year, 8 million made the trip to Queens, and Tuesday morning the Queens Tourism Council kicked off a five-month-long initiative designed to increase the borough’s take of tourists and — in particular — the dollars they spend.

“Home to an array of cultures and the city’s most diverse community, Queens has grown into a global destination,” said NYC & Co. Chief Executive Officer George Fertitta.

As the city’s official marketing and tourism organization, NYC & Co. provided a $58,000 grant for the tourism council’s Real Culture/Authentic Flavor promotion, which hopes to lure those who visit the borough’s cultural attractions into staying a bit longer and spending some cash at local businesses.

Fertitta said tourism generated about $4 billion in the borough last year.

“We’re trying to get people to spend money in Queens instead of Manhattan or Brooklyn,” said Rob MacKay, director of marketing and tourism for the Queens Economic Development Corp., the parent organization of the tourism council.

The program highlights cultural offerings such as a flamenco performance at the Queens Library in Long Island City and a salon-style drawing exhibition at the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning at 20 destinations throughout the borough from June through November.

The council then partnered with local businesses to promote on its website — discoverqueens.info — the places to stay, shop and eat near the events.

“I’d put our restaurants up against Manhattan’s any day,” MacKay said. “They’re cheaper, they have bigger portions and they’re more authentic. When you go to a Greek diner in Astoria, it’s run by real Greeks.”

The kickoff for the program was held at the Flushing Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel, one of the members of the Queens Economic Development Corp., which hosted borough representatives; Flora, the anthropomorphic mascot of the Queens Botanical Garden; and some of the Chinese Golden Dragon Acrobats, who are currently performing at the Queens Theatre.

City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) said visitors to Queens can take a trip around the world just by riding the No. 7 train, and that it was important to promote the borough’s neighborhoods both to foreign visitors and Queens residents.

“Manufacturing jobs are gone and they won’t come back,” he said. “The future is tourism, higher education and health care. These are the things we have to concentrate on.”

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said he was “proud to be someone who eats at a lot of restaurants in Queens County,” adding that especially in western Queens, small businesses like restaurants and cafés provide many jobs.

State Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) said that as a Queens mom, she is always looking for things to do with her family in the borough.

“There are so many programs and events you can find right here in Queens,” she said. “You don’t have to go anywhere else.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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