Omicron variant causing hotel cancellation, affecting NYC tourism industry during holiday season

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ByDan Krauth via WABC logo
Friday, December 24, 2021
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Dan Krauth reporting on the tourism industry rebounding this holiday season as a new record high in positive COVID cases led to thousands of hotel cancellations.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- As the tourism industry was rebounding this holiday season, the hotel association says they experienced a record high in bookings since the pandemic started.

Now, a new record high in positive COVID cases has led to thousands of hotel cancellations this week alone due to a spike in omicron cases.

Earlier this month, hotels in the city experienced an 81% occupancy rate. That's the highest in almost two years, and the highest in the country.

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But that has been followed by thousands of cancelled bookings.

"It has been a topsy, turvy road, a lot of pivotal milestones and a lot of challenges," said Chris Heywood, of NYC & Company, the tourism arm of the city.

It has been a challenge all year for the city's tourism industry.

When visitors started returning this summer for events like the US Open and the Broadway, something else showed up -- the delta Variant.

"With the delta surge one thing that we did learn was people still learn to travel, especially domestically, they learn how to adjust, be nimble be resilient," said Heywood.

Thirty-four million people visited NYC in 2021, about half the amount compared to the year before the pandemic.

"To be able to restore half of total visitation from 2019 is actually very positive given everything we've gone through," said Heywood.

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This November, international travelers returned once again and the amount of international visitors is expected to triple next year.

And the city needs them launching the largest ad campaign in history to help entice them to visit.

The farther people travel, the more money they spend. International tourists account for 20% of visitors to the city, but represent 50% of the spending.

"I'm hopeful that by the spring you're going to start to see some growth," said Heywood.

Tourism levels aren't expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024.

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