Travellers from across the world are singling out Brooklyn as a prime vacation destination. More than 15 million tourists descended upon Brooklyn last year, and it’s projected New York City overall will host a record number of visitors this year and the next. But longtime residents of New York know it wasn’t always this way.
In the ’90s and early ’00s, the only tourists in Kings County were those who got off at the wrong L stop. But in 2016, it’s not uncommon to observe out-of-state tourists looking lost and confused as they ascend from the Nostrand Avenue subway stop in Williamsburg.
Travellers unfamiliar to Brooklyn expect a booming Times Square-style attraction — resplendent in neon lights and recognizable retail chains. What they get is far from it. Rather than a blazing Vegas-style strip, the Brooklyn experience is a more subdued journey of tastes and sights, but just as entertaining nonetheless.
Brooklyn’s Booming Tourism Industry
How does St. Joseph’s College help market Brooklyn as a tourist destination? And how does it take advantage of a booming tourism industry? Embedded in Brooklyn’s culture is SJC’s Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM). Now in its third year of churning out talented graduates, the department’s Institute for HTM presented “Brooklyn Tourism: More Than a Bridge” on Dec. 8.
Moderated by HTM chair Damien DuChamp, the event featured three panelists representing three very different areas of tourism: Andrew Hoan, CEO and president of Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce; Mark Levy, owner and operator of Levy’s Unique New York; and Rachel Felder, author of Insider Brooklyn. The three answered questions about tourism in Brooklyn and identified key trends for the borough as a tourist destination.
From this discussion, attendees gained a greater perspective of the direction of the tourism and hospitality industry and the important role it plays in the continued economic growth of Brooklyn.
Hospitality and Tourism: “Where the Money is.”
“It’s only natural for Brooklyn to be involved in tourism and trade. There are 50,000 jobs in the hospitality industry in Brooklyn,” Hoan said, speaking on the potential for career growth for students — especially bilingual students. “That makes tourism the second largest industry in the economy behind health and education. If you want a job in this career, come to SJC, and you’ll have a bright future. That’s where the money is.”
“One of the great things is that Brooklyn is this brand that resonates with people,” said Felder, “It makes me very proud and happy that people outside the five boroughs want to be here.”
That doesn’t mean Brooklyn as a destination is without its faults. Hoan, Felder and Levy each presented issues with infrastructure and bureaucracy that hold Brooklyn back from its full potential.
“I see so many tourists walking across the Brooklyn bridge from Manhattan,” Levy said. “When they get to the Brooklyn side, they look around and don’t know what to do. They turn around and head back across!”
Levy proposed prominent kiosks and attractions to be installed at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge in DUMBO to attract and convert stray Manhattan tourists. Meanwhile, Hoan lamented the absence of a suitable convention space, as well as a need for hotels, trolley cars and even an MLS (Major League Soccer) team.
“We already have the Nets and Islanders,” Hoan said. “Why not take advantage of the fastest growing sport in the country, and use the available space in Brooklyn to build a soccer stadium?”
In addition to SJC Brooklyn students and community members present in the audience, a large group of aspiring tourism students from the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism at Erasmus Hall attended the event as part of the SJC’s partnership with the National Academy Foundation. This partnership is part of the campus’ ongoing efforts to provide future generations of students with the practical knowledge they need to succeed and thrive in both higher education and their chosen careers.
“The Institute for Hospitality and Tourism Management at SJC Brooklyn regularly brings dynamic figures in the hospitality community on campus to ensure that our students are at the forefront of the industry,” Duchamp said. “We are fortunate to have strong relationships with leading industry figures that allow us to explore what future visitors to Brooklyn can come to expect.”
For more on the SJC Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, check out our website.