New York treads a tricky comms tightrope

It is another autumn - or should that be 'fall'? - when we Brits are fixated with developments on the other side of the Atlantic.

Danny Rogers: 'Tourism bosses need to create a perception of ‘business as usual’ in the run-up to Christmas, New York’s busiest time of the year'
Danny Rogers: 'Tourism bosses need to create a perception of ‘business as usual’ in the run-up to Christmas, New York’s busiest time of the year'

Obama has triumphed in the US presidential elections after a prolonged, bitterly fought and eye-wateringly expensive election campaign.

But another huge comms exercise has been under way in New York and New Jersey, coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and convincing the world that this business and tourism mecca is open for business.

By unfortunate coincidence, Sandy struck on the eve of World Travel Market, the globe’s biggest tourism marketing exhibition, held in London this week.

This presented the bosses of tourism and regeneration body NYC & Co with a similar dilemma to the one faced by mayor Michael Bloomberg over the New York marathon.

Bloomberg, who set up NYC & Co in 2006, has been in the spotlight for weeks. Since before the hurricane he has been giving detailed daily briefings to the media and has been praised for working hard and efficiently.

However, he made a major PR error by first insisting the New York marathon would go ahead as planned, only to cancel it two days before the run. It was ultimately the right call at a time when dozens had recently died, the city’s infrastructure was in a mess and millions were without power or shelter.

So it was no surprise that NYC & Co chief executive George Fertitta and chief comms officer Kimberly Spell cancelled their trip to World Travel Market at the 11th hour, judging that it was better to stay in the Big Apple to deal with the fallout at home.

It was a tough call because tourism bosses need to create a perception of ‘business as usual’ in the run-up to Christmas, the city’s busiest time of the year.

It is particularly important to target Britain, New York’s largest inbound overseas market with more than 1.5 million British visitors each year. We should imminently expect a PR offensive.

Bloomberg’s vision for NYC & Co is a unique integration of urban regeneration and tourism. In a crisis this provides New York with a generally consistent flow of policies and comms through the worlds of politics, business and travel.

Privately, New York bosses are confident that this, combined with the city’s natural resilience – and Britain’s addiction to the Big Apple – means their 2012 forecast for 51.5 million visitors is still very much on track.

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