In an unexpected twist of tourism trends, visitors to New York City are seeking an unconventional, yet authentic, taste of the Big Apple – rat tours, as reported by The New York Post.
A local resident, Kenny Bollwerk, has taken up the unique task of guiding tourists on free nocturnal rat tours, navigating the streets near Rockefeller Center and in neighborhoods like Flushing and Sunnyside in Queens.
“Rats are akin to a New York City mascot,” Bollwerk shared with the media outlet, adding, “People harbor a curiosity to witness it firsthand.”
Bollwerk enhances the experience by live-streaming his exploration of the city’s rat-infested areas on TikTok, gathering an audience of up to 10,000 at a time.
Bollwerk is not alone in leveraging this peculiar fascination. Luke Miller, proprietor of Real New York Tours, also incorporates stopovers near Chinatown, enabling tourists to observe the rodents in their natural habitat.
“They have become the new celebrities in New York City, given the extensive media coverage,” Miller commented to The Post.
Several rat tour patrons, some of whom intentionally traveled to the city for this unique spectacle, spoke to the outlet.
“It’s a sight one must behold,” stated Aaron Lidwell and his wife, residents of Altoona, PA, who were visiting the city with hopes of encountering rats.
Lidwell, thrilled by the sight of rat tails at a construction site, even reached out to gently touch some, causing Bollwek’s TikTok livestream to go “viral,” according to Lidwell.
Patrick Norris, a St. Louis resident, was drawn to the city after becoming a fan of “RatTok” videos on TikTok.
“It piqued my interest to explore the locale and its surroundings, to see what lurks behind this corner or that,” he shared with the outlet.
Even locals, like David Fraticelli and his 12-year-old daughter Noelia from the Bronx, are regular attendees of these tours, with the young girl frequently appearing in Bollwek’s TikTok videos, The Post reported.
Rats have long been a symbolic part of the city’s identity, but their population experienced a surge during the pandemic.
Reports of rat sightings in 2022 doubled, with city health inspectors documenting approximately 60,000 instances of rodent activity, a stark contrast to the 30,000 recorded the previous year.
In response to this escalating issue, New York City Mayor Eric Adams assigned a “rat czar” earlier this year to aid in the city’s rodent elimination efforts.