The record tourist year of 2019 resulted in a 72 billion-dollar economic injection for New York City businesses, and now, political leaders are trying to bring back those heady times with a advertising and public relations campaign.

As the hotel and restaurant industry begins to recover, there are questions about Covid-19’s impact and what the future has in store. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a $30 million tourism marketing blitz beginning in  June. This will be the city’s largest-ever campaign to recharge the moribund industry, which at one time employed 400,000 workers and injected billions into the local economy.

“We are open for business,” de Blasio said during a briefing. “There’s only one New York City.”

The campaign, “NYC Reawakens”, aims to attract both domestic and international visitors to the city. The funds will come from federal stimulus programs and go toward TV ads and social media campaigns, including a Wish You Were Here at NYC campaign, in which New Yorkers can invite friends to visit the city, the mayor said. The city will relaunch its annual Summer Restaurant Week from July 20 to Aug. 15, he added.

Rising Tourism Numbers Still Requires Attention In Keeping COVID Under Control

City officials said New York isn’t going to require visitors to show proof of vaccination or take Covid-19 tests to enter, but de Blasio said increasing vaccination rates will help boost travel.

The city’s tourism arm forecasts 36.4 million visitors for this year, recovering more than half of the record 66.6 million visitors from 2019.

Other tourism indicators, while early and subtle, are starting to recover. Since January, the hotel occupancy rate has ticked up 6 percentage points, to 35%, according to hospitality data company STR. The industry reported its fifth straight monthly increase in average daily room rates, which have risen 12% since December.

On a recent Saturday, 4,100 people rode the ferry from Lower Manhattan to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, up from 2,500 three weeks before, according to Rafael Abreu, vice president for marketing at Statue Cruises.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has been averaging 7,000 daily visitors, up from 4,000 when it reopened in the summer. The American Museum of Natural History reported a similar increase. New York said Monday that it will raise the capacity limit for museums, zoos and movie theaters.

There’s still a long way to go. Tourism is struggling after suffering a blow surpassing even the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. It has hardly rebounded to the extent of other measures of New York prosperity, such as the stock market. The hotel occupancy rate is down from 88% two years ago, STR data show.

Along with the decline in visitors, many rooms are empty because about 200 of the city’s 700 hotels are closed, some permanently. Others, such as the Mandarin Oriental and the Park Hyatt, reopened this month, with several others to follow.

During the briefing, chef Daniel Boulud praised the campaign and said restaurateurs are ready to welcome visitors. He pointed to the upcoming opening of his Midtown restaurant Le Pavillon

”The rebirth of our economy, but also our culture, that’s what we need,” Boulud said. “New York always attracted talent, ambition and creativity.”

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