The gradual return of tourists to New York City is accelerating the recovery of small businesses – many of them family-owned stores – that collectively employ thousands of people and serve as one of the most important economic engines in the city. One big difference, however, will be the lack of Chinese tourists.
Chinese nationals face strict travel restrictions and thus have difficulties traveling outside of the country. According to the New York times, China was the fastest-growing source of foreign visitors to New York, with more than 1.1 million Chinese tourists arriving in 2019. Their impact on New York’s economy was significant because they tended to stay longer and spend more than other tourists. Authorities are trying to redirect their efforts to attract travelers from countries such as Mexico, Brazil and Australia, to compensate the absence of tourists from China.
It’s always been the case and continues to be the case that travel and tourism are major cornerstones of our economyMaria Torres-Springer, a deputy mayor
Times Square has long been a symbol of New York’s hustle and bustle, but when the theaters on Broadway closed their doors and the city became the epicenter of the world’s pandemic, 9 out of 10 businesses in the area had to close, according to a district group, The Times Square Alliance.
Practically a hundred percent of the area’s businesses have already reopened, slowly, with Broadway shows starting up again, for vaccinated moviegoers only. Among those who have reopened are businesses that do not cater directly to tourists, but are part of the entertainment ecosystem in the city.
Just before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, New York City was seeing record numbers of tourists: 66.6 million in 2018, of which 13.5 million were foreigners. Then the pandemic forced severe travel restrictions.
According to NYC & Company, the city’s tourism agency, visitors spent about $24 billion in the city last year, including those who traveled at least 50 miles but did not stay overnight.
A blitz of advertising has been underway for months to remind Americans that New York City is open for business again and ready to welcome visitors. Now the city has expanded its promotional campaign to those outside the United States, who are especially sought after because they spend more time and money on their visits.
Although domestic travel accounted for 80% of visitors, foreign tourists account for about half of the city’s tourism spending and usually half of its hotel bookings. For all of 2021, the city received just 32.9 million visitors, less than half the record total for 2019, the New York Times reported.
NYC & Company is spending millions of dollars abroad to attract tourists. It projects there will be 2.8 million foreign visitors by the end of the year, a fraction of the 13.5 million who visited the city in 2019. With the borders reopened, officials expect visitor numbers to rise steadily in the coming years and reach record levels again in the next four years.