Occupy Wall Street Protest Has Little Effect on Tourism

Dan Searles hands out Occupy Wall Street flyers at Zuccotti Park, home base for the protest.  Picture by Josey Bartlett

The month long Occupy Wall Street protest critical of U.S. politics and wealthy corporate businesses has stirred up opinions on both sides and spread past New York City to many other states, but as of yet has not made any significant (negative or positive) impact on tourism dollars.

The protest began on Sept. 17 with 2,000 people rallying in lower Manhattan and about 150 people spending the night in Zuccotti Park, according to OccupyWallStreet.org. Since then blue tarps for sleeping and living have filled the park.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Oct. 7 during his weekly radio show said that the protest is "not good for tourism."

Since then, ABC News and The Huffington Post  reported that the protest drew tourists to the park.

Even the protesters acknowledge the tourism draw.

“I see people take pictures, and tour buses pass by every day,” said Geoff Osborn, 25. Osborn, an NYC resident who sleeps on couches of generous friends, currently works one job but is unable to afford rent payments. He has participated in the protests off and on since Sept. 20.

While the photo op attraction and tour bus pass-bys are all true, these tourists would be in NYC regardless, said Joel Cohen, vice president of New York City Vacation Packages.

“Although we’re definitely seeing an increase in tourist visits to the city we believe that it’s due more to the opening of the National September 11 Memorial than to the Occupy Wall Street protest,” said Cohen. “We don’t think the protest has had any effect, positive or negative, on tourist visitation. We haven’t even seen any impact of the protests on our daily walking and sightseeing tours of Lower Manhattan; however we have seen a considerable increase in participation in our tours since the opening of the Memorial.”

NYC & Company
, New York City’s official marketing, tourism and partnership organization, shows more people booking hotels than last year, according to Christopher Heywood, vice president of communications at NYC & Company. However, this trend started before the protest.

Throughout the year people travel to the city more or less depending on holidays and other peak seasons, said Heywood. This year more people visited the city, but during these same peak seasons. There are no abnormal spikes or declines, he said.

“We don’t have any data to make a statement, but anecdotally we aren’t seeing any big effect. There aren’t more cancellations. Many tourists don’t even see it,” said Heywood.