Back in 2011, I started MCNY Tours to showcase the cultural and historical landmarks of my native Bronx and to bring in outside visitors to support our local small businesses. Two years later, my company has grown at a snail’s pace and I continue to struggle to attract visitors.
The Bronx faces a unique challenge in that it has a reputation for being dangerous, thanks to popular culture references that reinforce negative stereotypes of it being gang-ridden and prone to violence. As a result, tourists are often reluctant to even consider visiting the borough, even though those who do come have a very favorable experience and are pleasantly surprised by its beauty, diversity, and rich history. In fact, when I try to market tours of the Bronx to hotels in the city, many of them clearly state that they would never send their guests to visit the Bronx – we are treated as if we have the bubonic plague. I knew going into this business that trying to lure tourists to visit our borough was going to require a lot of work, but I didn’t realize how difficult it would be and how limited the support would be from the city and its bustling tourism industry.
The city has embarked on various promotional campaigns that always seem to leave out the Bronx. For instance, NYC Restaurant Week doesn’t include a single restaurant in the Bronx. With all the buzz around the “Where’s Waldo in NYC?” initiative, I have yet to catch a glimpse of the beloved children’s book character in the Bronx. And the Neighborhood x Neighborhood project designed to drive visitors and locals to lesser known areas of the city has yet to have any noticeable impact here. I recognize and appreciate the efforts of the current administration to promote lesser known areas, but more can and must be done, and this is a huge opportunity for the next mayor.
With the citywide elections just around the corner, the mayoral candidates have come to the Bronx frequently to speak about immigration, homeless shelters, affordable housing, welfare, and ex-convict programs. But what about jobs? What about ways to support local residents who are trying to start, grow, and maintain their small businesses?
The candidates need to have a working plan to create more jobs in the Bronx and support the small business community. After all, we are the backbone of the economy. Promoting the Bronx as a tourist destination to in turn drive local growth should be part of that plan.
The Bronx small business community needs and deserves action.
Alexandra Maruri is a Bronxite, owner of MCNY Tours, and a proud supporter of GoBizNYC.Maruri is also a member of the Bronx Entrepreneurs and Business Network
For more information on MCNY Tours, visit http://mcnytours.com
Remember to support Bronx businesses.