Interview with Makiko Matsuda Healy, managing director, Tourism Market Development, NYC & Company

Live Like a Local in NYC
2022-07-26
/
/ New Delhi
Interview with Makiko Matsuda Healy, managing director, Tourism Market Development, NYC & Company

Indian travel to NYC continues to be fuelled by the country’s emerging role in the global marketplace, driving increases in business, leisure and VFR travel to the US and NYC

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, New York City has managed to consistently attract Indian visitors and India remained among the top 10 source markets, Makiko Matsuda Healy, managing director, Tourism Market Development, NYC & Company, tells India Outbound in an interview.
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Makiko Matsuda Healy

Makiko Matsuda Healy

How many Indians visited New York City in 2019 and what was the situation last year?

In 2019, New York City welcomed 336,000 Indian visitors. Prior to the pandemic, India was considered a market with immense potential for travel due to a growing middle class based on a solid economy, disposable income and aspirations of a growing middle class only accelerated positive development. In fact, India remained in New York City’s top 10 international source markets in 2021, mainly based on the leisure and VFR (visiting friends and relatives) travel, student community, visiting NRI and business travellers travelling to the US and NYC.

Since reopening to Indian tourists, what kind of numbers have you had?

Even with the United States’ restrictions on most international travel in place until November 8, we welcomed 93,000 Indian visitors to New York City in 2021. As we recover from the pandemic and with the reopening of Indian air travel, we look forward to welcoming more travellers from this key market.

What is your target for 2022 and 2023?

Our 2022 forecast projects 181,000 Indian visitors to New York City, roughly double that of last year, and we expect to welcome 247,000 Indian visitors in 2023. Indian travel to NYC continues to be fuelled by the country’s emerging role in the global marketplace, driving increases in business, leisure and VFR travel to the US and NYC.

What have been the favourite activities for Indian tourists in NYC?

Major drivers for travellers from India are sightseeing, entertainment, nightlife, family attractions, shopping, adventure and outdoor activities, and culinary experiences. For first time visitors, some of the most popular visited tourist attractions include New York City classics like the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Broadway and the City’s other major attractions.

Repeat travellers look for activities, and beyond-the-ordinary experiences that allow them to “live like a local”. For shopping, visitors shop at New York City’s most iconic department stores, including Macy’s Herald Square, Nordstrom NYC, Bloomingdale’s, Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue.

What is new in NYC today?

New York City is always changing, which makes it the perfect destination both for first-time visitors and repeat travellers who think they have seen it all. From prominent new hotels and restaurants, to remarkable once-in-a-lifetime exhibitions, to new attractions and waterfront activities, New York City is poised to demonstrate its reawakening and vibrant future ahead.

Visitors can expect a new experience in NYC with more than 9,000 new hotel rooms coming online this year including the highly anticipated Aman New York, Fifth Avenue opening this summer, the new urban sanctuary located on Fifth Avenue; the Ritz-Carlton, NoMad, a new experience inspired by the essence of the new Madison Square Park expected to open this spring; and the Hard Rock Hotel New York, a new property offering a backstage pass to the best of Midtown Manhattan.

In addition, there are multiple new developments at the city’s three major airports including LaGuardia’s terminal B features 35 new gates, along with retail, food and beverage and amenities that more than doubles the previous offerings. Moynihan Train Hall, a spectacular 92-foot-high (28 m) skylighted train hall, transformed the landmark James A Farley Post Office Building into a 21stcentury transportation hub serving LIRR and Amtrak passengers. The new station features 50 pc more concourse space, state of-the-art wayfinding, information displays and is a welcomed expansion of the Penn Station complex.

This fall, visitors will be able to stop by the new Tiffany & Co. flagship store at 727 Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. The store will include eye-catching installations, exclusive products and the reopening of The Blue Box Café, where customers can enjoy breakfast. Broadway is also going to become home to some of the biggest and brightest stars in entertainment. The Museum of Broadway, the first permanent museum dedicated to Broadway, will open in Times Square this summer and celebrate Broadway’s history while also giving a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Broadway productions.

Do you see any change in Indian tourists’ preferences in NYC?

Transient business and leisure bookings are driving the recovery. In India, there is a growing preference for customised trips, compared to fixed-departure group tours. Consumers view websites and social media as travel influencers during their search for information. Indian travellers are willing to extend the duration of their holidays and spend more on their trips. The long-term group market continues to lag as businesses are taking their time committing to large, in-person events as the organisers, exhibitors and attendees adjust to the ongoing spread of variants, a diversity of restrictions and regulations, and global economic conditions.

For shopping, visitors shop at New York City’s most iconic department stores

What is your strategy for the Indian market?

As we continue to see positive indicators of rebound from the pandemic, NYC & Company will focus on accelerating recovery by encouraging Indian travellers to choose New York City as their next must-visit destination and on ensuring those travellers have a deeper, richer experience of the five boroughs when they arrive. To market the destination in India, NYC & Company hosted a first virtual sales mission for travel trade partners in February this year with a detailed webinar update on various new developments in the City and multiple face-to-face meetings to review business opportunities. NYC & Company partners who participated in the virtual sales mission included Broadway Inbound, Disney on Broadway, FIT Tours NYC, Empire State Building Observatory, Hudson Yards, One World Observatory, Summit One Vanderbilt and Tour America.

We will continue to optimise our reach via proven tactics through owned, earned and paid media, as well as travel partnerships with key players. We also launched a neighbourhood exploration campaign this March named “Get Local NYC”, encouraging visitors to experience both the City’s traditional tourism corridors as well as those across the City that may be lesser known, helping to better distribute the economic benefits of tourism. The new initiative kicked off with a new Brooklyn and Bronx travel guides, inviting visitors to Brooklyn and Bronx Like a New Yorker. Subsequent travel guides covering exploration in Manhattan, Staten Island and Queens will follow, with one borough featured per month.

We will also continue to grow our cobranded collaborations with key travel partners in India. These airlines and tour operators will help us amplify the reach of the campaign by promoting attractive flights and packages to visit New York City year-round under the creative umbrella of It’s Time for New York City. On the B2B front, our engagement with the travel trade will prioritise travellers with immediate intent and those that represent the greatest economic impact by staying longer and spending more across the five boroughs luxury and business travellers, meeting and event delegates.

This year we have also launched a mobile exclusive NYC Go Pass available to certified travel professionals, offering discounts on accommodation, attractions, dining, museums, performing arts, shopping and tours across the City’s five boroughs. This pass is packed with special offers encouraging travel trade professionals to experience and broaden product knowledge.

Which segment of tourists from India are your top priorities?

Our top priority will be to target travellers with immediate intent and those that represent the greatest economic impact – by staying longer and spending more across the five boroughs. The combination of business and leisure and VFR travel visiting friends travel to New York City is key to the types of businesses supported by the visitor spending during the year. Another important segment is Indian millennials who tend to be adventurous, confident and they have an interest in travelling to experience local art, culture, and cuisine.

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