As New York City reopens fully, tourism officials hope to revive a vital engine of its economy by issuing an urgent appeal for visitors to start rushing.
Armed with $ 30 million federal aid, the city’s tourism promotion agency NYC & Company is mounting an aggressive campaign to defeat New York’s image as the original epicenter of the pandemic of coronavirus in the United States. They hope to attract 10 million visitors to the city for overnight stays or day trips between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
With most international travel still closed, the vast majority of these visitors will be domestic vacationers, and not the top-spending foreign tourists. But after the pandemic virtually wiped out the city’s burgeoning tourism industry and forced many of its large hotels to close, all visitors are welcome.
“What we have realized is that we need to create an emergency to visit now,” said Fred Dixon, general manager of NYC & Co. He said the agency’s surveys of northeastern residents showed that people “were very excited and eager to return to the city, but they were looking for the sign that it was the right time.
This billboard will take the form of the city’s largest advertising campaign in decades, including nationwide “It’s Time for New York” TV commercials. Still in production, but slated to air in two weeks, these ads will aim to persuade Americans who would have otherwise been to Europe or elsewhere overseas to consider spending time – and money – in New York instead.
The first video ad quickly cuts through scenes of unmasked New Yorkers playing, from the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx to the Rockaways Beach and asks, “Where were you in the summer of 21?” Mr. Dixon introduced the campaign to the NYC & Co. board of directors when they met at the Javits Convention Center on Thursday.
“New York’s summer has arrived and now is the time to tell the world how this city is building a recovery for all of us,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Tourism has an impact on hundreds of thousands of jobs in the five boroughs, and its return will further fuel our recovery. “
The agency’s efforts to attract tourists were increasingly successful until 2019, when the city recorded an all-time high of 66 million visitors. At its peak, the tourism industry employed more than 280,000 workers – about one in 14 jobs in the city – according to the state comptroller’s office.
NYC & Co. counts anyone who travels more than 50 miles as a visitor, but places a higher value on overnight guests. Overseas visitors are the most popular, as they tend to stay longer and spend more money in hotels, restaurants, shops, and attractions.
But almost all of the city’s largest foreign sources of visitors, including China and Brazil, still ban travel to the United States. This year, Mexico has been the main source of international tourists, Dixon said. He said he hopes Canada and the UK will start allowing their citizens to resume free travel to the US soon, and that once that happens, the agency will start running its announcements there. .
The delayed restart of most international travel has caused NYC & Co. to slightly revise its forecast for visitors this year, to 36.1 million, from a previous estimate of 36.4 million, Dixon said.
But he said the agency projects visitors will reach 58.9 million in 2022 and again surpass 65 million in 2023, in part due to pent-up demand. The elimination of many pandemic rules, falling infection rates and high vaccination rates are all expected to drive more tourists.
As part of its campaign, NYC & Co. is also partnering with AAA to showcase the city as a road trip destination and prepare a raffle to offer trips to the city, Dixon said.
The effort was made possible by a pandemic assistance allowance the city received from the American Rescue Plan Act that Congress passed this spring. This money supplemented the agency’s budget, which is funded by the city and dues paid by hotels and other member businesses.
Still, the outlook for the city’s hospitality industry, which depends on extended visits and business travelers, is not so rosy, according to Alison Hoyt, senior director of consulting for STR, a research firm. Ms Hoyt said STR’s forecast did not predict New York’s hospitality industry to fully recover to pre-pandemic levels, even by the end of 2025.
Hotel business in New York is rebounding more slowly than in many other places, especially Sunbelt cities like Miami and Tampa, Fla., Where hotel occupancy rates have exceeded pre-pandemic levels, she said. declared.
While many hotels in New York have reopened in recent months and are filling their rooms more each week, as a group they are still losing money, she said. That’s because the average room rate they charge, around $ 185 a night in mid-June, is lower than their average operating cost.
In the week ending June 12, the occupancy rate of the 700,000 available hotel rooms in New York City was approximately 62%, up from 88% in the comparable week of 2019, a Ms. Hoyt said. There were 82 hotels with around 25,000 rooms that had yet to reopen, she said.
Some leading hotels, like the 1,900-room Hilton near Rockefeller Center, have been closed for more than a year.
Still, some hospitality industry executives have expressed optimism about the city’s resumption of tourism and the development of their business.
“We’ve had a much slower rebuild than some of the other Southern markets,” said Dan Nadeau, area general manager for Marriott in New York City. But, he added, “The progression we have seen has been real and sustained. We are very satisfied with the evolution of New York. “
All but one of the 36 Midtown Manhattan Marriott properties are open and they’ve booked rooms at about 70% of their prepandemic rate, Nadeau said. He said this represented a big increase from the end of March and he expected demand to remain high throughout the summer.
The scheduled reopening of most Broadway theaters in September, he said, should provide an additional boost. “Everything tells me that the reopening of Broadway is going to be a boost in New York that will really help,” he said.
The sooner tourists return, the sooner thousands of hotel workers will be back to work. The hotels are gradually recalling workers who have been on leave for more than a year.
“There is no doubt that the market is recovering, but it is slowly recovering,” said Richard Maroko, president of the Hotel Trades Council, a union that represents around 30,000 hotel workers in the city.
Mr Maroko said the pandemic had been “devastating” for the industry and his union members, but now they have reason to be hopeful. “They are waiting for tourists to come back so they can go back to work,” he said.