New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a $30 million tourism marketing blitz to start in June, the city's largest-ever campaign to recharge a moribund industry that at one time employed 400,000 workers and injected $70 billion into the local economy.
"We are open for business," de Blasio said Wednesday on a briefing. "There's only one New York City."
The campaign will be called "NYC Reawakens" and aims to bring both domestic and international visitors to the city. The funds will come from federal stimulus programs and go toward television ads and social media campaigns, including a "Wish You Were Here at NYC" campaign, in which New Yorkers may invite friends to visit the city. The city will re-launch its annual "Summer Restaurant Week" from July 20 to August 15.
City officials said New York isn't going to require visitors to show proof of vaccination or take COVID 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 2021, recovering more than half of record 66.6 million visitors that came in 2019.
Other tourism indicators, while early and subtle, are starting to recover. Since January, the hotel occupancy rate has ticked up six percentage points, to 35 percent, according to hospitality data company STR. The industry reported its fifth straight monthly increase in average daily room rates, which have risen 12 percent 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 last summer. The American Museum of Natural History reports a similar uptick. On Monday, New York said it would raise the capacity limit for museums, zoos and movie theaters.
There's still a long way to go. Tourism is still struggling after suffering a blow surpassing even the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist 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 percent 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, re-opened this month, with several others to follow.
During the Wednesday briefing, chef Daniel Bolud 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," said chef Daniel Bolud, who spoke at the briefing. "New York always attracted talent, ambition and creativity."