Westchester's Tourism Industry Is Booming Right Now

Despite the fact that summer is beginning to wane, Westchester County’s tourism industry is hotter than ever. The sector is currently experiencing an explosion of economic growth, fueled in part by a burgeoning film and television industry.  A recent report supplied by Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino revealed a surprising uptick in revenue for the sector. Indeed, over 2014 alone, travel and tourism grew to become a $1.7 billion industry. Meanwhile, visitor spending grew 3 percent over the same period, accounting for a whopping 52 percent of all spending by visitors in the entire Hudson Valley Region.

In fact, Westchester County now ranks third in total visitor spending for the state, just behind New York City and Long Island. Local and state governments are also reaping this windfall, with $207.7 million generated in taxes solely by travel and tourism over 2014, including $112.9 million accrued in local taxes. This represents a 4 percent increase in the sector over the previous year.

One of the primary reasons for the uptick of tourists might be the fact that the county is appearing on televisions and movie screens with increasing frequency.  Astorino recently announced that Westchester’s film and television industry grew from $13.8 million to $18 million over the previous year.

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Hit shows including Orange is the New Black, Girls, The Good Wife, and Person of Interest have been shot in the county, along with feature films such as The Wolf of Wall Street, Winter’s Tale, and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. In 2014, locally shot productions racked up 29 Emmy nominations, while television shows produced in Westchester earned nine Golden Globe nods the same year.    

To put this into perspective, a startling 90 percent of the county’s cities, towns, and villages received some form of revenue from the film and television industry according to a 2014 survey. This influx of filmmakers has indirectly benefited the county as well, with 66 percent of all film productions patronizing local business and 25 percent employing local vendors.

“Filming is good for our town,” notes Deputy City Clerk of Rye, Diane Moore. “Merchants see benefits and the town collects revenue. It’s also good exposure for Rye to the outside world.”

What much of this new revenue boils down to is employment: Last year, Westchester County’s visitor spending directly and indirectly supported 23,681 jobs. This accounts for 6 percent of all jobs in a county that comprises 44 percent of visitor-supported employment in the entire Hudson Valley region. Indeed, all tourism-related spending sectors grew in 2014, with food and lodging enjoying a particularly large boost of 5 percent over the previous year.

All the numbers are pointing in the right direction for Westchester, which seems to attract visitors for many of the same reasons Astorino believes it entices filmmakers.

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“The film industry in Westchester has never been bigger,” remarks Astorino. “We are enjoying a starring role in Hollywood’s featured films and successful television programs because of our incredible and diverse locations—from beautiful parks and shorelines to historic main streets, charming neighborhoods, and bustling urban sites.” 

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