NYC tourism

NYC Tourism Sees Bumpy Recovery with Ongoing COVID Impact

While the NYC tourism business is attempting to stay resilient in 2022, there also appear to be more hurdles to come.

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What to Know

  • Small businesses are facing a multitude of obstacles hurting their bottom line, including ongoing Omicron variant concerns, labor shortages, supply chain constraints, and inflation pressures.
  • New York City took the number one spot for Best Destination for Food Lovers in the country for 2022.
  • The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) predicts that this year will welcome the next phase of a bumpy ride to recovery -- ringing in the year of the "new" traveler.

The Big Apple has seen the lights go out on Broadway, go-to restaurants close their doors, and destination hotels shut down over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the New York City tourism sector is attempting to stay resilient in 2022, there also appear to be more hurdles to come.

The Big Apple's employment in the restaurant, retail, and recreation businesses was down by just under 170,000 jobs in November 2021, accounting for over 40% of total private-sector jobs lost since November 2019, according to the state's latest economic report.

About 10% of all jobs lost in the U.S. during that time belonged to New York City. Over half of the jobs lost in New York state were in the city.

Small businesses are facing a multitude of obstacles hurting their bottom line, including ongoing omicron variant concerns, labor shortages, supply chain constraints, and inflation pressures.

Restaurant Staff Juggle Orders

Chris Barish is the owner of tourist and local hotspot Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer, dishing gourmet burgers and over-the-top milkshakes. Over the last couple of years, he likens navigating the pandemic to an Olympic ping-pong match.

"Black Tap was born and bred in New York in 2015. We're seeing these unprecedented times, and there's a lot on my mind. First of all, it's making sure whatever mandates there are, we always abide by them and train our team," Barish told NBC New York.

Black Tap / Aleksander Michaud

Barish keeps up to the minute with city or state changes, like the reinstatement of to-go cocktails. When dealing with short staff, he has learned to lean on his core team -- not just shifting responsibilities but preserving mental health.

"We've had people who hold high positions jumping in and being a host for the day. We've had our executive corporate chef running double shifts on the line. We've had to adjust hours at times. It's a delicate balance, not just making sure we serve the guests but preserve the team's sanity," said Barish.

A new small business study focusing on New York by Goldman Sachs cited recruiting candidates for open positions as the top issue. On top of that, in regards to supply chain issues, almost 70% of those polled say suppliers favor large businesses over small companies due to the volume of orders.

If labor continues to see shortfalls, one trend within the restaurant industry is to limit menu options. Less is more if it can maintain an efficient flow of business.

Salil Mehta is the chef and owner of Wau, a Southeast Asian eatery on the Upper West Side.

While this restauranteur notes a significant dip in sales, upwards of 60% during the holidays, he is hopeful this season's NYC Restaurant Week will increase awareness of the industry's hardships.

"Consumers have become more acceptable to adventurous flavors and experiences," shared Mehta.

In Tripadvisor's annual Traveler's Choice Awards for Destinations, New York City took the number one spot for Best Destination for Food Lovers in the country for 2022.

Wau / Emilio Pandika
Credit: Wau / Emilio Pandika

Hotels Welcome the New Traveler

Last year was a watershed year for the hotel industry. The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) predicts that this year will welcome the next phase of a bumpy ride to recovery -- ringing in the year of the "new" traveler.

The new report labels it "bliesure", blending business with leisure or vice versa, and states this represents a profound shift in consumer behavior. Travelers moving forward are seeking purposeful plans and destinations.

In the heart of Midtown, Staypineapple is a boutique hotel that prides itself on an out-of-the-ordinary experience. General manager, Andrew Brown, has seen this trend in reservations.

Staypineapple
Credit: Staypineapple

"Our mix of business has always been heavy with leisure travelers, but we have seen the leisure demand grow into mid-week in addition to weekends. We are also seeing a longer length of stay for some corporate travelers which we believe is driven by a longer visit to their primary office," mentioned Brown.

To the AHLA, leisure travel will recover faster than corporate travel, driving a new landscape for more possible domestic tourists. John Beck is the general manager of Manhattan hotel and is no stranger to this concept.

"The biggest change that we're seeing is that the guest is not relying on as many hotel services. Guests are not expecting a room to be cleaned every day. Guest are more reliant on themselves in terms of booking itineraries," said Beck, who operates the Crowne Plaza HY36.

New York City launched its first-ever hotel week with over 100 participating stays offering discounts as part of the Winter Outing program.

Performances Flip the Switch

Broadway makes a comeback this season with timely 2-for-1 tickets to over a dozen shows. To Beck, leaning on Broadway tourism right now is crucial to picking up business for the hotel, which is offering its own Return to Broadway package.

This comes after a hard month in December.

Eighteen productions canceled performances before Christmas, while five shows closed permanently due to extreme uncertainty during the winter season.

Broadway producer Kevin McCollum suspended the musical "Mrs. Doubtfire", which remain on hiatus until mid-March. McCollum explained he isn't "throwing in the towel" but this is a way to save the production for spring, as reported by CNBC.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Girl from the North Country" joined in taking a pause amid the recent omicron surge, which led to questions on where that leaves the well-being of artists.

But the human need and desire remain to attend not only the Great White Way, but performances around the city.

We saw the ability of the creative community to come together this past summer when we were still in the middle of the pandemic. People came, and we were able to do so much outdoors. People were hungry for the art, music, dance, so we know that the need is there.

Leah Johnson
EVP, Chief Communications, Marketing & Advocacy Officer | Lincoln Center.

The success of Restart Stages showed audiences returning slowly but surely with an appeal of hyperlocal tourism.

Johnson notes the importance to build relationships with community-based organizations in outer boroughs by co-curating performances on the same stage.

Lincoln Center is looking forward to reopening David Geffen Hall this fall, making it a more versatile theater in addition to expanding the use of an almost around-the-clock public space.

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