Tourism officials in New York City on Monday welcomed the easing of restrictions on travel to the United States by those who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus in November. It was a sign of hope for a city whose famed retail corridors and hotel and leisure sectors have been left without international tourists during the pandemic.
International visitors have been a significant driver of growth in New York City’s economy over the years, helped by a steady increase in the number of hotels and restaurants in the city and the jobs they support.
Although travelers from abroad account for just one-fifth of the city’s visitors, they generate 50 percent of the city’s tourism expenditure, Because they stay longer and shop more, and account for 50 percent of hotel room stays, according to Fred Dixon, CEO, NYC & Company, the city’s tourism promotion agency. Mr Dixon on Monday welcomed the administration’s decision, calling it “a shot in the arm for the industry”.
Restrictions will be lifted for vaccinated travelers from European countries that sent millions of tourists to New York City in the years before the pandemic. More than 1.25 million visitors from the UK traveled to New York City in 2018, the most from any single country Analysis of tourism data by Baruch College. The UK and the rest of the EU accounted for almost half of all international visitors that year.
Businesses that cater to tourists have been hit hardest by the pandemic, with the restaurant, hotel and performing-arts industries the biggest and most sustained job losses. A new report from the New York City Affairs Center at the school showed that employment in the city’s hotel industry was still 60 percent below pre-pandemic levels, and the number of jobs in full-service restaurants was still down 40 percent. .
“Everybody says New York is back, New York is back, but it’s not really back until the tourists come back from all the countries,” said Leyla Saleh, 28, a pastry chef. The chef, whose father’s gift shop in Midtown was forced to close last year because it didn’t have enough business.
“American tourists don’t shop like foreigners, we had no chance,” she said. “Now we all work different jobs.”
Major retail districts that depend on international tourists and their spending, especially the SoHo neighborhood and the luxury malls known as shops in Hudson Yards, are struggling without them.
Before the pandemic, New York City’s number of tourists from other countries stood at 13.5 million per year in 2019, according to data compiled by NYC & Company. That figure fell to 2.4 million last year, almost all of whom arrived in early March before the pandemic broke out and travel restrictions were imposed.
NYC & Company predicted that figure would nearly double this year to 4.6 million, a projection that hinges on the easing of travel restrictions by the Biden administration.
The agency has estimated that it will take until 2025 for the city to recover all the international tourism it lost due to the pandemic.
Luke Miller, owner of Real New York Tours, which organizes walking tours, said that for their business, lifting the ban on international visitors was “the best news for me since the outbreak of Covid.”
Before the virus, 65 to 70 percent of their business came from international travellers, Mr Miller estimated, And he had to lay off 15 tour guides soon after the pandemic began.
Jared Goldstein, an independent tour operator in New York City, said he was interested in S.J. He estimates that his business was down more than 90 percent from 2019 to 2020.
“I am very happy to welcome him back,” he said. Already on Monday morning he reached out to a client in England who was planning a tour of the group to tell him that he could finally consolidate his plans. The client immediately responded that he would bring a group in February, Goldstein said. He welcomed the fact that only vaccinated international travelers would be allowed into the United States.
“I’m a New Yorker and I want the locals to be safe,” he said.