NYC Tourism Promotion Agency Paints Grim Picture for Industry

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NYC tourism may take years to return to the level it was in 2019 (NYC&co image)

By: Denis Cyr

New York drew a record 66.6 million visitors in 2019 and was on pace for even more this year, according to the forecast released on Monday by the city’s tourism promotion agency, NYC & Company. Now the city is likely to reach just one-third of last year’s total, the NY Times reported.

The number of foreign tourists in the city is not likely to return to its 2019 level before 2025, the forecast shows.

“It’s going to be a very slow build initially,” said Fred Dixon, the chief executive of NYC & Company.

NYC & Company: The New York City travel industry began 2020 in good position for another record year, with very strong performance in January, February and early March. The public health and safety measures put in place in mid-March to address the pandemic put practically all leisure and most business travel on hold. The result has been an unmatched drop in visitation during the remaining nine months of 2020. The year-end forecast for 22.9 million visitors now looks to be 66% below 2019 levels. The domestic market was only one-third of typical annual travel (20.5 million. Domestic inbound visitation (i.e., travel from more than 50 miles one-way or with an overnight stay) was partially sustained by regional travel which began to pick up in summer. The international market was down over 80% compared to last year as inbound international has been frozen since April (2.4 million visitors).

Given the uncertainty generated by the pandemic for economic recovery and consumer confidence in travel, the conservative outlook takes us to 2024 to top the 2019 benchmark. The overall industry could be back to 2019 levels in three years, especially if business travel restrictions affecting large events and meetings are eased in 2022. At the same time, New York City’s strong position with international travelers could help revive the cautious global travel market sooner. It is worth noting that international travel after September 11, 2001 took fully four years to recover.

“The tourism boom in recent years meant that thousands of New Yorkers without a college degree saw substantial real pay increases,” he said. The predicted slow recovery “means New York City is likely to go without tens of thousands of jobs in hotels and restaurants that, before the pandemic, were providing steadily rising wages to New Yorkers without a college degree, 80 percent of whom are workers of color,” James A. Parrott, director of economic and fiscal policy at the Center for New York Affairs.