NYC Loses $1.2 Billion After Tourist Spending Drops by 73%

New York City’s all-important tourism industry is showing its first signs of revival. But the sector has drastically contracted under the pressure of the pandemic, according to a report from the state comptroller’s office.

Spending by visitors to New York City dropped by 73% in 2020 from the year before, costing the city $1.2 billion in tax revenue. Tourism-related losses accounted for 59% of the city’s $2 billion decline in tax collections, the report said.

The economic impact is undeniable: With 43.7 million fewer visitors, a drop of more than two-thirds from 2019, the industry’s overall economic impact fell to $20.2 billion in 2020 from $80.3 billion in 2019, according to the comptroller. The precipitous fall ended a 10-year period of record growth in tourism for the city, the report said.

“The pandemic’s damage to this industry has been staggering and it may take years before tourism returns to pre-pandemic levels,” Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a statement on Wednesday. “Visitors and their spending are essential factors in measuring the health of the economy.”

Employment in the industry also saw a significant decline in 2020 as 89,000, or 31.4% of jobs, were lost from 2019, when employment reached a record 283,200 jobs, the report said. Taxi drivers were particularly hard hit: Yellow taxis saw their average trips per day decline by 96% from January 2020 to its trough in April 2020, according to the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Ramped up vaccinations and a focus on safely reopening tourist sites will help the city’s industry recover, but DiNapoli called on city and state officials to also send targeted relief to hotels, venues, restaurants and other businesses that are “unlikely to recover until visitors return.”

He said domestic tourists are important, but international tourists tend to spend more: International visitors generally spend about twice the amount per visit compared to the average traveler to the U.S., with each Chinese tourist spending an average of $3,000, almost twice the average of any other international visitors, the report said.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is calling for city workers to return to the office May 3, and is planning for Broadway shows to reopen in September. Earlier this month, de Blasio announced a $30 million tourism marketing campaign that will kick off in June.

The city’s tourism arm forecasts 36.4 million visitors for 2021, recovering more than half of record 66.6 million visitors that came in 2019.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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