NYC holiday tourism industry still not back to pre-pandemic levels | 7 On Your Side Investigates

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Wednesday, December 13, 2023
NYC holiday tourism industry still not back to pre-pandemic levels
Dan Krauth has more on what needs to happen for New York to bounce back.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York City depends on holiday tourists for hundreds of thousands of jobs and tax dollars, but something big has to happen for the crowds and spending to get back to pre-pandemic levels.

The good news is the city is recovering from the pandemic faster than first expected - about a year and a half ahead of schedule.

But the tourism industry is still not back to pre-pandemic levels quite yet - and for those who are visiting, it is costing more.

From Lady Liberty to the holiday light displays, visitors are back and coming from states across the country - but also from countries across the world.

"So much of the last three years has just been inside right? And we weren't able to travel anywhere so we've been planning this for probably a year," tourist Harry Greig said.

And that's what the city is banking on.

"Tourism is great for New York City's economy," said Tiffany Townsend. "Tourists contributed about $68 billion in economic impact overall, across all five boroughs."

And more than 63 million visitors are expected by the end of the month.

"That is not quite a record but we're 97 percent of where we were in 2019," said Kathryn Wylde with Partnership for NYC. "Ninety-seven percent and the only thing we are missing is the Chinese tourists, which are just beginning to come back."

While the amount of visitors is up, so is the price of hotel rooms. The average daily rate is $30 more a night than three years ago.

7 On Your Investigates interviewed the owner of two Midtown hotels during the height of the pandemic and went back to see how he's doing now.

"The last time you were here, if you can remember, it was just a big dark hole, so we're happy to be sitting here today," John Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick said business at his hotels has just started to get back to normal over the past six months.

"It was a disaster with money going out and nothing coming in, but thank god it's moved back, it's coming back," he said.

There are fewer hotel rooms available this year due to the migrant crisis and dozens of hotels that shut down during the pandemic and never reopened.

While Fitzpatrick was able to hire back all of his workers, about 20,000 citywide are still unemployed.

"We're still not back to where we should be," Fitzpatrick said.

But by the time the New Year's Eve ball drops in 2025, the city will have something else to celebrate -- experts believe the city could be even busier than it was pre-pandemic.

One of the markets that is not expected to bounce back entirely is business travel.

More than 340,000 local jobs depend on the tourism industry.

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