START SPREADING THE NEWS: New York is open and tourists are welcome
New York City is welcoming tourists. Broadway is open. Restaurants are open. Museums are open, and as for people ‘masking’ – New York is very similar to Toronto in the sense that many people are still mindful about wearing masks, and while most people still tend to wear a mask indoors, and in restaurants, many places leave the choice of a mask to the individual.
We recently had an opportunity for a conversation with Reginald Charlot, Managing Director, Tourism Market Development for NYC & Company and naturally the subject was tourism and how it’s doing now that we are in sort-of-semi-post-pandemic. Tourists? We asked, “Yes,” he said, “Here they come!”
And New York is welcoming them. “We need them. They help our economy, they help with jobs, so we really need them to come back in. A lot of people appreciate and understand the value of visitors coming into New York City, because of what they can do, what they spend, and everything else.”
There are of course, certain venues that do require masks. Broadway shows, for example and public transport. Masks are mandatory at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA ) where proof of vaccination is also needed.
“So, even though restrictions have been lifted, protocols are still in place,” said Charlot, “and that gives people that sense of comfort knowing that they can come into the city, wear a mask, and not feel uncomfortable about it.”
Canadians are heading for NYC
While obviously the numbers went drastically down, they are coming back, slowly but surely, with NYC forecasting potentially about 700,000 Canadians by the end of this year.
Air Canada, WestJet, Porter all have multiple direct flights right now after some cutbacks during the pandemic. The flights are full. They’re running every day, back and forth, multiple times and this spring they will be joined by Swoop.
Additionally, of course, there are the US domestic carriers – Delta, United, and American that have regular flights to the city.
“It’s all just working super, super well. So we’re very excited,” said Charlot. “We’re really looking forward to having Canadians come back into the city and just revisiting it.”
The duration of the stay varies, says Charlot. It could be a long weekend or a week to 10 days, depending on the interests of the individual.
But the tendency now is for a longer stay. Instead of coming to New York City for a quick three-day visit, visitors are now extending the trip to five or seven days just to be able to reintroduce themselves to the city, to take in things they may have missed on previous quick trips.
Charlot explains that, for example, you may perhaps have visited the “Empire State Building eight million times, but you may have not realized this cafe on the corner, or this new museum Fotografiska that’s a few blocks down from Empire State Building. You realize you have three more days to visit the city as opposed to just two. So, that’s really kind of been a good battle cry, a good call for a lot of visitors coming into New York City.”
Not quite business (travel) as usual
He acknowledges that business travel is not where it was pre-pandemic. “It’s a much slower process because so many people are still doing video conferencing or having that type of meeting. Or, if they are travelling, it’s a much smaller meeting or a smaller business trip, so it’s going to take a little bit more time. There is a much slower process in regards to visitors coming on the business side, but they are coming, if not as quickly as on the leisure side, but there is the potential.”
A lot of people are taking advantage of working remotely, he believes, noting that there’s definitely a big increase in people staying Monday to Thursday and avoiding weekend prices. And working remotely and exploring the city when it’s a little bit less busy – getting that local feel. New York is actually seeing an increase in people visiting midweek rather than Friday to Sunday.
Still some challenges
Like any large city that has their post-lockdown challenges with occasional acts of random violence, New York is no different says Charlot, from Toronto, Montreal, Paris, or London. But people are still taking the subways, and they are, as they should be, mindful of their surroundings.
As with many destinations – hotel prices are up.
“However, people are paying – because they have had two years of being able to put all those lovely points in their pockets and purses, and now they’re able to spend, so a lot of hotels are maintaining their rates. Some have increased their rates a little bit, as well.
“It’s actually advantageous for everyone to be able to stay at the hotel that they’ve wanted to stay at for years and say, ‘Well, now I have the money, I can stay there’ and not be concerned about the pricing as much. And the hotels are now getting customers to come in and book up their hotels. So, it’s a win-win on both sides.”
Like everywhere else New York City experienced its share of closures.
“Everybody was hard-hit. Hotels were closed. Restaurants were closed. Cafes, mom-and-pop shops were closed. Some bigger stores also just closed up.” Said Charlot, “but as with anything, a lot of people have said ‘it’s the time to buy in again.’ So, some people were able to resuscitate their business, resuscitate their restaurant, hotel, because things were so much cheaper. And people were able to get investors, ironically enough, at the time to kind of help rebuild. So that’s why things are coming back in a different way.”
Like many other places there are some shortages of service personnel, but says Charlot, “Living in New York City, nothing’s really changed for us, from our perspective, going to the restaurants and cafes and bars – I don’t see anything that really changed.”
For New Yorkers, “even with the two-year gap where nobody went out, and then you come back to the world where it’s back to normal in essence, I’m seeing it as, “Oh, okay, well nothing’s really skipped a beat.” There may be an off-chance that instead of having three bartenders you have two, so the wait’s going to be a little bit longer, but people are being patient.”
Happy to be out
All of the annual events are starting. The Five Boro Bike Ride took place in May, Tribeca Film Festival’s coming up this month as is the Pride Parade. There’s going to be the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks again and The US Open is coming. Also, Restaurant Week will celebrate its 30th anniversary in July with restaurants offering discounts.
“Let’s be clear,” says Charlot, “The reality is that most people understand that there are shortages. There are certain things that aren’t the way they were before. But overall, I think people are just happy to get out, to be out and about and kind of engage and see people and do things and feel like it was in 2019. And a lot of that is happening again in New York City.”
First published at Travel Industry Today