Foreign tourists back in New York, long business recovery seen ahead

NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 19 (Reuters) – New York has launched its largest tourism advertising campaign in history. John F. Kennedy International Airport is once again crowded with foreign passengers. The holiday season promises the highest travel pleasure with more visitors on the streets and in shops.

But souvenir shops, horse-drawn carriage drivers and small businesses that rely on holidaymakers said it could take weeks or longer to revive their fortunes, especially to robust pre-pandemic levels.

“I’m just pessimistic that they are not going to return the way people think they will,” said Daniel Zambrzycki, owner of Gifts on the Square in Times Square, one of the world’s most visited tourist destinations. “It’s a progression at a snail’s pace.”

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International tourists bring something different to New York than domestic travelers, city tourism officials said. They tend to spend more, stay longer, and bring a mix of cultures, accents, and attitudes that reinforce its cosmopolitan feel.

How and when New York tourism emerges from the pandemic after US foreign travel restrictions were eased on November 8 is something that business owners, city officials and other top tourist destinations are keeping a close eye on. Read more

Vijay Dandapani, executive director of the Hotel Association of New York City, sees the country’s most populous city as a litmus test for tourism in the rest of the country.

“New York is the biggest destination,” he said. “Many stop here and move on to other places.”

The current forecasts are not encouraging. This year, NYC & Co, the city’s tourism agency, expects total visitor spending of $ 24 billion, down from about $ 47 billion in 2019.

Only 2.8 million foreign visitors are expected this year, which is far from the record of 13.5 million in 2019, where they accounted for 20% of all visitors and half of the expenditure.

International visitors could triple to 8.5 million next year, said NYC & Co spokesman Chris Heywood. But a recovery to 2019 levels may not come until 2025, two years after domestic travel is expected to recover.

By comparison, it took five years for international tourism in the city to fully recover from the 9/11 attacks, according to the agency.

‘IT TAKES TIME’

Some souvenir shops in the Times Square area closed forever, following pandemic restrictions, discretionary travel from large parts of the world closed, making parts of New York feel like a ghost town. While pedestrian traffic has increased since the summer, the remaining shops are running due to uncertainty.

Zambrzycki is first of all concerned that increases in crime and homelessness since the pandemic began in March 2020 will deter some foreign visitors.

He said revenue in his store continued to fall by 65% ​​compared to 2019. He has no immediate plans to restore store openings or expand his staff to four people – half the number in 2019.

Jalal Alif, who runs a store called I Love NY by Phantom of Broadway, also sees no rapid increase in customer traffic.

“It takes time,” Alif said, standing in the middle of the nearly empty store. “It will not be the same as before.”

To kick-start a rebound, NYC & Co has launched a $ 30 million tourism campaign, its largest, with $ 6 million dedicated to key international markets, including the UK, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and South Korea, Heywood said.

“Our goal is really to create an urgent need to book now and ensure that New York is at the top of the priority list for international travel.”

About 20 blocks north of Times Square, Kieran Emanus has been offering rides through Central Park in his horse-drawn carriage for decades. As a visit to the Statue of Liberty, the experience is on the list of many out-of-town visitors.

Emanus had a modest increase in bookings in the first week after the restrictions were lifted. A good day before the pandemic would have had six wagon orders on weekdays and 12 on weekends, he said. Now, “if you get eight on a weekend, you’re very happy.”

But there are hopeful signs.

Six groups from the UK were among Emanus’ latest customers, he said. “I had not seen an English person since the pandemic.”

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Reporting by Tyler Clifford in New York; Editing by Richard Chang

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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