You roll your eyes, watching a red Grayline bus full of tourists gumming up your morning commute or taking a judgmental glimpse of a herd of them lined up outside of Katz’s Deli. You resent them for wasting your precious space on the subways or dawdling down the sidewalk at sloth’s speed, stopping every few steps to aim their phones skyward or take out that blasted selfie stick. On bad days, you might resent them even breathing your air.
Yes, among the many things that happen in New York come the holidays, one of the most dependable is the appearance of what seems like more tourists than ever. And if you feel like the sidewalks are even more crowded than they were just a few short years ago, you aren’t imagining things.
Last year, a record-breaking 60.5 million visitors made their way through the city’s streets, and 2017’s projected yearly total is an even higher 62 million, up from averages of 40 million in the early 2000s. And this increase is no accident; it’s the successful result of a deliberate “50 by 15” initiative by Mayor Bloomberg that aimed to spur the city’s recovery from 9/11.
But not every New Yorker sees it that way. In fact, rivaled only by the subway, these interlopers to our precious city are one of our favorite things to complain about.
While we understand the impulse to keep the magic of the city alive and to preserve its gritty, rough edges, we can’t rightly blame the tourists themselves for that. We should instead be aiming our loathing at the enterprising business owners who lure them in with bright colors, low prices, and the promise of easily digestible stimulation. Hate the system, not the systemized!
New Yorkers also can conveniently forget to acknowledge how vital tourism is to the NYC economy. The billions of dollars tourists spend every day provides living wages for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who work at the establishments that outsiders keep afloat. And more than that, it’s a part of the city’s personality.
Not everyone is an ignorant Midwesterner gawking at the Naked Cowboy; just as many visitors are enthusiastic travelers eager to find the city’s underrated gems. And isn’t it a thrill to be able to casually run into someone from as far away as Japan or Sweden while you’re going about your day—or even to run into your favorite out of town celebrity who wasn’t immune to NYC’s siren’s call?
You can think of it as a testament to New York's cultural power and significance to be able to bring all the tourists out.