During Olympics, New York City has more tourists than London

The Olympics don't produce the tourism benefits you might expect.

One of the arguments for hosting the Olympics is the increased tourism from fans making the trip to a host city.

It's an argument New York City might have made had it won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics. New York was a finalist, but, of course, the bid went to London.

Now that the Olympics are over, Mitchell L. Moss and Carson Qing of NYU's Rudin Center for Transportation Policy compared tourism statistics during the Olympics in the two cities. What they found is that, despite conventional wisdom, New York had better tourism numbers than London during the Olympics and compared with the year before. Here's how the cities compared:

The number of total tourists comes from projections by London & Partners and represents the number of "staying visitors" that stay in the city at least 4 days, the average for a "staying visitors" in London. Throughout the Olympics there were an estimated 5.5 million day visitors. New York's 538,000 total tourists estimate comes from NYC & Company tourism figures from 2011. Not exactly a 1:1 comparison. The official visitor numbers for the Olympics won't be available until September, according to the Associated Press.

So the authors also compared the tourist estimates at popular destinations in both cities: theater and museum attendance. In New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art had nearly 100,000 more visitors than the British Museum. While on Broadway, there were more visitors attending shows than on London's West End. Plus, New York saw a 7 percent increase over last year, while the number of London theater-goers fell by 30 percent. And the most telling of all, hotel occupancy rates were only about 80 percent in London, about 12 percent lower than usual. On the other hand, New York had a 93 percent occupancy rate, a 2 percent increase.

"London's 2012 Olympics have been a smashing success, with impressive athletic achievements and new athletes emerging on the worldstage," the authors said in their report. "But the huge numbers [of] visitors that watched the athletes compete came while thousands of visitors avoided London's theaters, museums, great shopping streets, and restaurants. Per capita visitor spending in the city's retail and entertainment districts is typically greater than spending by tourists who come exclusively to watch the Olympic Games."

A survey of tourism professionals came to similar conclusions.

It makes sense to compare these two major global tourist destinations. But I would also be interested to know the impact of tourism on smaller cities without the tourism reputation. I doubt that London will see a significant spike in tourism post-Olympics (a possible benefit that would make up for the lower numbers during the Games), but for a city without London's reputation, would there be more of a tourism benefit?

(h/t Transportation Nation)

Photo: Flickr/Gane

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com