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City Plans to Lure Tourists to Staten Island and Washington Heights

By Jill Colvin | February 25, 2013 6:51am

NEW YORK CITY — The city's tourism chiefs are planning a way to lure Times Square-weary tourists to largely ignored neighborhoods — including Jackson Heights, Washington Heights and Snug Harbor in Staten Island.

Beginning March 6, New York's tourism offices in cities around the world will feature a new neighborhood each month, highlighting its restaurants, hotels and attractions, officials at the city's tourism wing NYC & Company said.

“We want to spread the visitor love," said NYC & Co. chief communications officer Kimberly Spell, who gave DNAinfo.com New York a preview of the first-of-its-kind campaign.

“It will give us a chance to comprehensively focus global attention on a neighborhood that is not as well known as Midtown or the Statue of Liberty or some of our other landmarks,” she said.

The neighborhoods that will be featured — including Fort Greene in Brooklyn, Arthur Avenue in the Bronx and Forest Hills in Queens — were chosen because of their easy access to public transportation, as well as their sights and energy.

“They're places that are fun and exciting and that really embody the ever-changing energy of the city," said Spell. “You really want to put your best foot forward... and these neighborhoods are hidden gems."

They're also significantly cheaper than locales like Midtown or Lower Manhattan, where hotel rooms can cost much more than $500 a night — which the city hopes will help it shake its reputation as too expensive for many budget-minded travelers.

As part of the push, the mayor announced plans during his State of the City speech to legalize European-style profit hostels to try to attract a new crop of young people who may not be able to afford the city's hotels.

The campaign is also part of a larger effort by the city to encourage tourists to leave Manhattan and explore areas beyond Times Square, Broadway and the Financial Center, helping to spread tourism spending dollars — and encourage repeat visits.

“We see it as part of our job to kind of level the playing field for the other boroughs," Spell said.

But one of the biggest challenges, she said, was the fact that tourists often don't think beyond the iconic images they associate with the city.

“We’re a bit of a victim of our own success as a city,” she said, pointing to 100 years of movies and television shows where Manhattan reigned king.

She hoped a new generation of series, like the HBO phenomenon "Girls," might help to change that notion and encourage visitors to explore neighborhoods outside of Manhattan, which have seen a huge influx of new hotels in recent years.

The city had a record-breaking 52 million tourists last year, and hopes to welcome 55 million by 2015.