New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said a 10-year period of record growth in tourism came to an abrupt end in 2020, as 43.7 million fewer visitors came to the city because of COVID-19.
Tourists spent only $13 billion in 2020, a 73% decline from the prior year, and in the end, that will cost the city $1.2 billion in lost tax revenues in Fiscal Year 2021.
Employment in the tourism industry also saw a significant decline in 2020, as 89,000 jobs were lost from 2019, when employment reached a record 283,200 jobs.
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"The tourism industry is a vital component of New York City's economy," DiNapoli said. "Visitors and their spending are essential factors in measuring the health of the economy. The pandemic's damage to this industry has been staggering and it may take years before tourism returns to pre-pandemic levels. The city and state must help with safe reopening, while targeting relief funds to workers and to hotels, venues, restaurants and other businesses that are unlikely to recover until visitors return."
DiNapoli said the state and city's near-term focus remains getting more people vaccinated and reopening attractions and expanding capacity safely. He urged city and state leaders to work with stakeholders to re-ignite the new normal for New York City's tourism industry.
--Build the infrastructure and systems that aid flexible adherence to health and safety guidelines, including the expansion of public space for tourism activities.
--Analyze and target relief programs, particularly for the accommodation and transportation industries, ensuring existing and new programs reach workers and alleviate short-term pressure for operators from taxes, loan payments or related fees, so that operations may return.
--Promote tourist activities, including boosting resources for agencies designed to coordinate such activities (i.e. NYC & Company).
--Target domestic leisure travelers in the short term, as they are most likely to return first, while developing campaigns to lure international and business travelers in the long-term, as they spend more on average than their counterparts.
--Accelerate airport enhancements and improve local transportation options.
--Integrate new and existing technology to make it easier for visitors to arrange and change their itineraries, to make reservations and to avoid lines and help streamline compliance with public health protocols.
"Comptroller DiNapoli's exhaustive report on the pandemic's impact on NYC tourism is an invaluable marker," Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said. "It shows how much work we need to do to rebuild the sectors affected by the pandemic's massive drop-off in tourism."
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