NYC tourism industry may not fully recover until 2025

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The tourism industry in New York City faces a tough and long road ahead.

The tourism industry was ground to a halt because of the pandemic and a new projection from NYC & Company, the agency in charge of promoting tourism in the city, finds it may take until 2025 to fully recover.

"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."

A record 66.6 million people visited the city last year and even more were expected to do so this year before lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions took effect in mid-March.

Now, a new forecast says the total number for 2020 will likely be just a third of what it was in 2019.

Domestic tourism could begin to pick up by the spring or early summer of 2021 if a vaccine becomes widely available and restrictions are lifted. Its recovery is expected around 2023.

International travel, which is down over 80% this year, is expected to take longer to catch up, but could see 2 million visitors by the end of 2021. A full recovery on international visitation won't happen until 2025, possibly 2024.

The agency notes international travel after the Sept. 11 attacks took four years to recover.

"This is going to be a slow build and it's going to require a lot of resources in terms of marketing and promotion as well as restoration of international air access to the city," NYC & Company spokesman Chris Heywood told WCBS 880's Marla Diamond. "The inflection point for the recovery will be next spring or early summer when the vaccine becomes more readily available. Once it is available and distributed, that will be the time when the ship turns and we can start on the road to recovery."

One company that runs double decker tour buses, TopView Sightseeing, tells the New York Times that business has dropped more than 90%.

Statue Cruises, which ferries tourists to Liberty Island, has been carrying 8% to 15% of its pre-pandemic loads on weekdays.

One of the biggest drivers of tourism is live theater, but the earliest Broadway might raise the curtain is late May.