The Big Apple attracted nearly 67 million visitors last year, but NYC & Company, the city's tourism promotion agency, now projects that the bounce back won't begin until the middle of next year with a return to pre-pandemic totals in 2025.
"The New York City travel industry began 2020 in good position for another record year, with very strong performance in January, February and early March," the agency said. "The public health and safety measures put in place in mid-March to address the pandemic put practically all leisure and most business travel on hold."
That caused "an unmatched drop in visitation" over the past nine months, and the year is on pace to finish with tourism down 66%.
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The domestic market was only one-third of typical annual travel and was partially sustained by regional travel, which began to pick up in summer. The international market was down over 80% compared to last year, as inbound international travel has been frozen since April.
"With a plan for widespread vaccination taking shape for Q1 2021, the outlook for a pick-up in regional and short-haul domestic travel will begin to lift the levels of visitation in the late spring-early summer," the agency said. "If the health breakthroughs align with lifting restrictions on activities and gatherings, the pace may move more quickly."
Officials said the international market will take longer to catch up, but could pick up 2 million visitors by year end.
"Given the uncertainty generated by the pandemic for economic recovery and consumer confidence in travel, the conservative outlook takes us to 2024 to top the 2019 benchmark," the agency said. "The overall industry could be back to 2019 levels in three years, especially if business travel restrictions affecting 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."
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The agency said it is worth noting that international travel after September 11, 2001, took four years to fully recover.
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