The tourism industry in New York City could take years to return to normal as the coronavirus pandemic continues to strengthen its hold on the United States.
According to the city’s official tourism promotion agency, the number of foreign visitors in the Big Apple is unlikely to recover to 2019 levels until 2024, given current uncertainties and consumer confidence in travel. That’s bad news for the many retailers who rely on the market — and its strong tourist traffic — to fuel a large portion of their sales.
The NYC & Company report showed that the industry could go back to the 2019 benchmark in three years if business travel restrictions impacting “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 added.
What’s more, the agency shared that the rebound is dependent on widespread vaccination, which health authorities have suggested could happen as soon as late in the spring or early in the summer 2021. This morning, Moderna revealed in a statement that the preliminary results of its Phase 3 trial showed its vaccine candidate was 94.5% effective in preventing COVID-19. The announcement came a week after Pfizer shared that its own vaccine candidate was more than 90% effective in combating the virus.
“If the health breakthroughs align with lifting restrictions on activities and gatherings, the pace [of visitation] may move more quickly,” NYC & Company explained. “The international market will take longer to catch up but could pick up two million visitors by year end.”
The travel industry in New York City kicked off 2020 on solid footing, with the agency remarking that it was in “good position” for another record year. It saw strong numbers in January, February and early March, but the touchdown of the coronavirus on the East Coast led to government-mandated lockdowns that forced the closures of thousands of nonessential businesses and nearly halted travel both in and out of the city.
The agency has released its year-end forecast for 22.9 million visitors — about 66% below 2019 levels. Domestic inbound visitation (or travel from more than 50 miles one way or with an overnight stay), it added, was “partially sustained” by regional travel, which started to pick up in the summer. However, the international market has been down more than 80% from the prior year.
According to NYC & Company, the tourism industry is responsible for as many as 400,000 jobs and brings in $46 billion each year from visitors.
Its downfall amid the health crisis has dealt a massive blow to other sectors, including theaters and restaurants.