New York City needs foreign visitors because they spend four times more money than Americans

Spend, spend, spend.
Spend, spend, spend.
Image: Reuters/Kevin Coombs
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It takes four US visitors to equal the spending of just one foreign traveler in New York City, according to NYC & Company, the city’s tourism agency.

Visitors from abroad splurge on shopping and sightseeing, and tend to stay much longer than their American counterparts. So it is especially worrying for the city that its tourism agency forecast in February that 300,000 fewer overseas visitors would be visiting this year compared to last year. This would be New York City’s first decline in foreign visitors since 2008.

Foreign visitors accounted for just 20% of the more than 58 million people who visited New York in 2015, but they contributed nearly half of the total $42 billion these visitors spent, the agency told Quartz. A foreign visitor spends about $1,600 per trip, compared with just $400 spent by Americans.

The agency expects domestic tourism to New York to grow thanks to cheap gasoline and consumer confidence, but a loss of foreign tourists could still have a significant financial impact on president Donald Trump’s hometown.

Foreign visitors travel longer distances to New York City than most Americans, so they often stay longer once they arrive. They stay an average of nine days, compared with just 1.9 days for US visitors. New York receives plenty of day trippers too, who don’t need to spend on hotels.

Most foreign tourists won’t miss a change to shop in New York City, an activity US travelers usually skip since clothing and electronics are available at similar prices nationwide and can be easily delivered to their homes. A decline in foreign shoppers is especially worrying to New York’s already struggling brick-and-mortar retailers. Ralph Lauren earlier this month announced it would close its flagship Polo store on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, which sits just south of Trump Tower, where the president has a penthouse apartment.

NYC & Company issued its forecast for the decline in the wake of president Trump’s travel ban on citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries. It said that the updated figures reflected ”changing attitudes about travel and access to the US.”

After Trump took office under the banner “America First,” searches for flights from abroad to the US dropped. Other recent developments, like the United States’ recent ban on in-cabin electronics on flights from the Middle East, or this week’s viral video of a United Airlines passenger being violently dragged off a flight, aren’t likely to encourage tourism, either.

Quartz looked at profiles of US and foreign visitors based on surveys and agency data from NYC & Company. Here’s how they stack up: