NEW YORK, NY (AP) — David Cohen longs to return to Times Square’s glory days of family souvenir shops.
Although tourists are returning to Grand Slam souvenirs, foot traffic is not as high as it was before the coronavirus pandemic. When hordes of international visitors crowded under the electric billboards outside his doors, Grand Slam souvenirs were flooded with people.
The return of foreign tourists may be a catalyst for economic recovery in a region known as the crossroads. Many of his businesses are mom-and-pop shops that employ thousands and serve as New York City’s main economic engine.
Cohen said that after the U.S. opened its doors to vaccinated travelers from abroad, “We welcome them back” “We have a long way yet.”
Times Square has been a symbol of New York’s bustle and bustle for many years. According to The Times Square Alliance, 9 out of 10 local businesses closed after Broadway theatres closed and the city became the epicenter for the global pandemic.
Tom Harris, president of the alliance, stated that “We were really a symbol to world pandemic and the pause.”
Three-quarters of local businesses have since reopened as Broadway shows began opening to vaccinated audiences.
Businesses that aren’t directly targeted at tourists are among those who are likely to be restarted.
Sam Vasili’s Shoe Repair was reopened across 51st Street, from the Gershwin Theater. It had been there for over three decades prior to a long pandemic.
Sam Smolyar, the owner, was all smiles when he announced that a Broadway production had asked for his assistance. Since years, he has provided custom-fitted boots to the Rockettes. He said, “We rely upon the theater and the businesses around us.”
He hopes that more Broadway tickets will lead to busier times.
Vasili, who has three employees at the shop, said that “it starts to get better.”
New York City saw record numbers of tourists just before the COVID-19 epidemic. In 2019, 66.6 million people visited the city, including 13.5 millions from abroad. However, severe restrictions were placed on foreign travel after the pandemic.
Since months, a marketing campaign has been in place to remind Americans that New York City remains open for business and is ready for visitors. New York City is now reaching out to visitors from abroad, who are more sought-after because they spend more time in the city and more money.
While domestic tourism accounted for approximately 80% of tourists, almost half of the city’s tourism spending is made by foreign visitors. These tourists also typically account for half all hotel bookings.
Harris, of the Times Square Alliance, said that the area is already rebounding. Harris of the Times Square Alliance stated that pedestrian count in certain areas has increased from 150,000 to 250,000 per day since May. This is still a far cry from the approximately 365,000 people who walked through the streets before the pandemic.
Harris stated that “between the return to Broadway and the return of international tourist,” Harris claimed, “we really expect the pre-pandemic numbers to be there sooner than most people think.”
Marina Galan was one of the returning visitors. She soaked in Times Square under a waterfall of lights from her bleachers. Her friends and she flew from Madrid to New York on the first day U.S. border opened for vaccinated tourists.
She said, “When you return to New York, this will be what you see.” “Everything is back to normal.”
Pablo Leon, her friend said he was keen to return. The group took a risk when they purchased tickets for Hadestown Broadway musical last March, despite not knowing when they would be allowed travel to the United States.
Leon stated, “That was the real gamble because we bought tickets for tonight without knowing if we would be able to get here.”
NYC & Company, NYC’s tourism agency, has been spending millions of dollars overseas to bring back tourists. The agency projects that 2.8 million tourists will be visiting the country by 2019, a small fraction of the 13.5million who visited in 2019. Officials hope that the number of foreign visitors will continue to rise as the borders are reopened and reach record levels in the next four years.
Chris Heywood (executive vice president) stated, “We hope to do everything in our power to accelerate that timeline.”
The initial campaign will focus on Canada, Mexico and Brazil. However, it will soon expand to other countries, including China. China is a lucrative market, as Chinese tourists are significantly more than other nationalities.
However, Chinese tourists may choose to remain put due to quarantining requirements at home. This includes a minimum of two weeks for returning from overseas trips.
New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli stated, “Daytrips, domestic tourists, are helping Broadway and museums, but New York won’t reach their pre-pandemic levels of visitors until international tourist returns in full.” While opening America’s borders would be a huge help, there are other factors that can make it difficult to predict when the country will return to its pre-World War II numbers.
More people could visit New York City’s Thanksgiving parade and Times Square New Year’s Eve celebrations, which are both annual traditions.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul also announced a $450million initiative to revitalize the tourism sector.
William Brownstein, a comedian, offered tickets to comedy clubs to anyone who was looking to get rid of the grim news.
Brownstein stated that, “With all of the crazy things happening” — with Republicans as well as Democrats, with pro and anti-vaccine perspectives — “you’ve got to have a good time about it.” He was back from his unexpected hiatus in May, shortly after comedy clubs were permitted to reopen.
He said, “I believe as time progresses we will see many more people coming,”. “It will just take a while, but they’ll be back as they were before.”