Borrowing the “World’s Fair” concept, the expo featured a food and culture crawl, walking tours, business workshops, and a local resource fair.
The Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, Asian Americans for Equality, and the Department of Small Business Services (SBS), which hosted the event, also unveiled their “Passport to Flushing,” which contains special discounts at local shops.
“If there’s any community that deserves to carry the torch of the World’s Fair, it’s Flushing,” said Councilman Peter Koo. “A community that combines the best of the world’s culture into a bustling and thriving neighborhood.”
On Friday, the event kicked off with a keynote address by former Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz, who now leads borough promotion and engagement for NYC & Co., the city’s tourism organization.
Markowitz spoke about the importance of the tourism and hospitality sectors to New York City’s economy.
A record-high 62.8 million people visited the city last year. In Queens, the second largest growth in jobs came from the tourism and hospitality industries.
Markowitz called Flushing the “other Times Square of our city,” and its the fourth largest central business district in New York City. Flushing has the most businesses of any Queens neighborhood.
From its diverse food options like Cantonese dim sum and Korean kimchi, to cultural attractions like Flushing Town Hall and the Queens Botanical Garden, Markowitz said the neighborhood has it all.
“It’s all happening in Flushing,” he said.
The expo marked the end of the first year of “Flushing Fantastic,” a three-year district marketing campaign to showcase Flushing’s businesses. John Choe, executive director of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, said they borrowed the “World’s Fair” theme to look at not only the past, but focus on the present.
Choe put together the food and culture crawl, which is mapped out in the Passport to Flushing. It encourages visitors to walk around and explore the best of the neighborhood.
“To me, it’s much more important to support the living community that is trying to survive here rather than focusing on the nostalgic past,” he said.
The three-day event also served as a way to share best practices for small businesses. The expo featured a panel of experts, such as food writer Joe DiStefano, Dumpling Galaxy owner Helen You, and Gutsier Living owner Shweta Parmar, who gave their tips and advice.
Choe said community organizations are also consulting with SBS, NYC & Co. and the Queens Tourism Council to figure out infrastructure needs to encourage more visitors come to Flushing.
“It doesn’t help other small businesses if they don’t have websites and social media and the menus in different languages,” he said. “Those are what you need if you’re going to have more international and national tourism into Flushing.”
His message to tourists is that if they want to experience the “real New York,” where people overcome challenges and transform themselves, they should come to Flushing.
“You’ll see a lot of transformative experiences and moments in Flushing,” Choe said. “You should be part of it. Be part of the change that’s happening.”