Image: N.Y. tourism pitch
people cross in front of an advertisement promoting New York City tourism at a rail station in Dublin, Ireland. The advertisement is a component of an ambitious campaign designed to promote New York City around the globe.
updated 3/15/2007 12:21:01 PM ET 2007-03-15T16:21:01

The city’s tourism office officially launched its first major international advertising effort Wednesday, aiming to sell potential visitors a new New York, one that’s as much the birthplace of hip-hop as it is the home of the Empire State Building.

The campaign is part of an ambitious strategy in the last year to promote New York City around the globe. The tourism office, NYC & Company, already has bureaus in places like Dublin, Buenos Aires and London, and plans to open a total of eight offices in 2007, from Toronto to Tokyo.

Despite its reputation as a top destination, the city has never before embarked on a global ad campaign — relying instead on smaller, local efforts in foreign countries.

At stake are billions of dollars. Some 44 million people visited the city in 2006, generating an estimated $24 billion for the local economy and outpacing such cities as Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said he would like the city to reach the goal of 50 million annual tourists by 2015.

The new ad campaign is expected to get going this fall, said George Fertitta, CEO of NYC & Company.

He formally announced details of the plans in Berlin on Wednesday with Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion. The appearance was part of a new five-borough strategy to market the diversity of the city and broaden its appeal.

“We’re going to be letting people know that New York City is not just about Manhattan,” said Fertitta, a former advertising executive. “There is a vibrancy to all five boroughs.”

A recent infusion of $15 million in annual funding from the city will finance the latest endeavors. That will allow the city to catch up to other major U.S destinations in an increasingly competitive marketplace, said Lalia Rach, Associate Dean of the Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism at New York University.

“It is catching up — because the money was not there,” she said. “No city, no destination, can live on its laurels — can live on what it assumes is its place in the market.”

NYC & Company’s total yearly budget of $45 million is still a fraction of that of Las Vegas, where the Convention and Visitors Authority has close to $85 million to spend on advertising that has made “what happens here, stays here” a household phrase.

The gambling mecca has embarked on international advertising campaigns since 2002. In fiscal year 2007, more than $5 million is slotted for ads in Mexico and the United Kingdom, she said.

The focus on foreign visitors is no accident, said Jonathan Tisch, chairman of the Board of Directors of NYC & Company. “The international traveler stays longer and spends more money,” he said.

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