Ease in Regulations Makes NYC More Accessible to Overseas Visitors; NYC & Company Partners with Travel Industry to Increase Visitor Arrivals to NYC from Key Markets

New York, NY (November 17, 2008) NYC & Company, New York City’s marketing, tourism and partnership organization, today applauded the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s admission of South Korea and six Eastern European countries into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), marking the 22-year-old program’s first new additions in more than ten years. Beginning today, citizens of South Korea, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia will be eligible to travel to the U.S. without a visa. The announcement will make it easier for more leisure and business travelers to come to New York City. Last year, approximately 238,000 visitors traveled to New York City from South Korea - more than double the number from 2000. In addition, the Visa Waiver Program will help fuel the growth of tourism from Eastern Europe to New York City. New York City continues to be the number one U.S. travel destination for the Eastern European countries.

“Tourism is a vital part of New York City’s economy, and consistent growth of the industry in recent years is due in large part to international visitors who stay longer and spend more money,” said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “We applaud the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for admitting seven new countries to the Visa Waiver Program and for continuing efforts to make the U.S., and New York City in particular, a more welcoming destination while ensuring secure borders.”

“We are pleased to see such significant progress in easing the entry process for foreign visitors,” said George Fertitta, CEO of NYC & Company. “International travel to New York City generated more than $15 billion for the City’s economy last year. We are confident that with these seven new countries in the Visa Waiver Program, the City’s travel and tourism industry will stand to benefit in the years ahead.”

“On behalf of the Korean government and people, I am very happy to join others in celebrating Korea’s accession to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, and firmly believe that the extant friendly and cooperative ties that our two countries enjoy will be further strengthened and consolidated through the effective implementation of the program,” said Consul General of the Republic of Korea in New York, Kyung-keun Kim. “The staff of our Consulate General will do its utmost to ensure the safe and comfortable visits of Koreans, whose numbers are expected to increase. In this regard, I look forward to the close cooperation and coordination with relevant U.S. authorities, including the City of New York.”

New York City is expected to remain the number one U.S. destination for Korean visitors under the Visa Waiver Program despite financial concerns posed by the current economic climate. NYC & Company opened an office in Seoul, South Korea, in 2007 as part of a global expansion to increase travel to New York City from key international markets.

In anticipation of the new regulations, NYC & Company has been working closely with the U.S. Embassy in Seoul to educate members of the travel industry as well as consumers about the new process, which includes a requirement for travelers to acquire an e-passport and clearance via the online Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to departure. More information on this procedure can be accessed at

In addition, NYC & Company will launch its Online Training Academy for the Korean travel industry in early 2009, which will inform on the new process. The Online Training Academy trains travel agents and tour operators on best practices to package and sell New York City’s five boroughs as a travel destination. NYC & Company also works with tour operators, retailers and the media in the Korean market to promote New York City as a visa-free travel destination and to create consumer promotions to increase travel.

A number of New York City attractions already cater to Korean visitors with services that include Korean-language program guides and sightseeing tours. For example, The Metropolitan Museum of Art offers a Korean Audio Guide and Gray Line New York Sightseeing offers comprehensive tours of Manhattan in Korean. NYC & Company also offers a Korean language website and offers maps and brochures in Korean.

Travel from Eastern Europe to New York City has grown steadily since 2004. Last year, New York City welcomed 268,000 visitors from the region, up 60% from 2004. Approximately 73% of Eastern Europeans traveled to New York City for leisure purposes.

Since March 2007, NYC & Company has opened 11 new international offices, bringing the total to 18 serving 25 international markets. New representative office locations include: Spain (Madrid), the Benelux countries (Amsterdam), Scandinavia/Finland (Stockholm), Russia (Moscow), China (Shanghai), South Korea (Seoul), Japan (Tokyo), Brazil (São Paulo), Canada (Toronto), Australia (Sydney), and India (Mumbai).

About NYC & Company
NYC & Company is the official marketing, tourism and partnership organization for the City of New York, dedicated to maximizing travel and tourism opportunities throughout the five boroughs, building economic prosperity and spreading the positive image of New York City worldwide.

Kimberly Spell
NYC & Company
tel 212 484 1270

Carli Smith
NYC & Company
tel 212 484 1270