As Europe rolls out a vaccine passport to try and support its tourism industry by any means necessary, New York City's tourism industry is just showing its first signs of revival.
And with those who choose not to get vaccinated restricted from traveling abroad for the foreseeable future, domestic destinations like the Big Apple are excited by the prospect of a bigger-than-expected rebound. On that note, Bloomberg reports that the city's tourism industry is just showing its first signs of revival, according to a report from the state Comptroller's Office.
Spending by visitors to New York City dropped by 73% in 2020 from the year before, costing the city $1.2 billion in lost tax revenue, as 43.7MM fewer visitors arrived in the city in 2020. This accounted for 59% of the $2 billion in lost revenue the city believes was lost due to the pandemic. What's more, the industry’s overall economic impact fell to $20.2 billion in 2020 from $80.3 billion in 2019.
Prior to the pandemic (September 2019), hotel occupancy in the City was 89.6 percent, the highest in the nation, and was a key factor attracting hotel builders and operators. By September 2020, occupancy had dropped to 38.9 percent, pressuring daily room rates.
While the first green shoots are starting to show, New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said it will take years for the industry to fully recover.
"The pandemic’s damage to this industry has been staggering and it may take years before tourism returns to pre-pandemic levels," Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a statement on Wednesday. "Visitors and their spending are essential factors in measuring the health of the economy."
Over the past few decades, NYC's services-based economy has become increasingly dependent on tourism, as any panhandler in Times Square would likely attest.
Tourism jobs declined by more than 30% last year, from 283K to 194K, a loss of 89K jobs, numbers that - according to the latest nonfarm payrolls data, are finally creeping higher.
Since 1991, the number of visitors to the City has nearly tripled, with almost half the growth occurring in the last 10 years (between 2009 and 2019). Much of this has been driven by international tourism, although with the US's lingering travel restrictions, international travelers have seen by far the biggest drop. Though, to be sure, the majority of visitors to the city are still domestic travelers. But generally speaking, the city makes more money off of international tourists, with one international tourist typically spending 4x what a domestic tourist spends. Unsurprisingly, the majority of these jobs are located in Manhattan, though Brooklyn and Queens have seen rapid tourism job creation over the last 10 years.
Tourism industry employees, like hospitality workers, tend to live in the city. According to the report, 83% of the nearly 200K workers live in the city. A higher share are also self-employed. There are 60,800 firms in New York City that provide at least some of their services in support of tourism. Of these, 39.5 percent are located in Manhattan, while Brooklyn and Queens also account for large portions (25.3 percent and 22.5 percent, respectively).
Of course, even as international travelers start to trickle back once COVID-19 case numbers have returned to zero, it's looking increasingly possible that a new scourge might take its place: violent crime, which is exploding in the city in the wake of the pandemic.