TORONTO — For Reginald Charlot, there’s nothing like hearing a multitude of languages on the streets of New York City to signal the triumphant return of tourism.
The city, like all others around the world, saw massive declines in tourist arrival numbers throughout the pandemic, going from a record-high 60 million visitors in 2019 (one million of whom were from Canada), to just 20 million in 2020. But according to Charlot, NYC & Company’s Managing Director, Tourism Development for Established Markets, tourists have made a quick return to ‘The Big Apple’ following the reopening of U.S. borders to international visitors in November 2021.
“The recovery was very fast, especially since many people already had Christmas and New Year’s plan to come to New York City,” he tells Travelweek while in Toronto yesterday, May 3, for a New York City Canadian Sales Mission at Bisha Hotel Toronto. “And now with summer coming, we’re very excited to just walk through the city and feel the energy of it once again. Just hearing every language imaginable has been really great.”
Not even the unexpected rise of the Omicron variant in late 2021-early 2022 has put a damper on this year’s projected visitor arrivals. NYC & Company is forecasting 712,000 Canadians to visit in 2022, not quite back to pre-pandemic levels but “close enough,” says Charlot. A full return is forecast by 2025, a significant bounce back considering Canada consistently ranks among New York City’s top five international markets.
“Canadians have always been a breath of fresh air, they’re very open to discovering new things and they’re very big into exploring all five boroughs and different neighbourhoods,” says Charlot. “It’s very impressive that Canada continues to make its mark and visit New York City. We want to be there for Canadians and vice versa.”
With this week’s Canadian Sales Mission, which also includes a stop in Montreal, Charlot says one of the organization’s main goals was to reinforce the massive importance of the travel trade. Travel agents were invited to meet and learn updates yesterday from participating tourism partners like Broadway Inbound, TopView Sightseeing, Empire State Building Observatory, Hudson Yards, Rockefeller Center, and SUMMIT One Vanderbilt.
“Travel agents are the ones who can influence decisions, who can really speak to what’s happening in New York City, and who can really engage their clients into giving them a unique experience,” adds Charlot. “We want them to know that we’re here for them and want them to be here for us again. We want to make sure that agents know everything that’s new in New York City, from the latest attractions and new openings, because they are an essential source of information for the Canadian traveller.”
HEALTH & SAFETY
For Canadians who are still feeling cautious about travelling, Charlot is reassuring them that even though New York City has lifted certain COVID-19 restrictions, visitors can still wear a mask at their own discretion, there are still several COVID-19 testing locations, and there are still certain venues that are requiring proof of vaccination.
“All these elements help keep things consistent; we don’t want to move on like nothing ever happened,” says Charlot. “We’re really mindful of how travellers may be sensitive to health protocols and safety standards, which are still going to be in place even though restrictions have lifted.”
Charlot recommends going to www.nycgo.com for a list of attractions and businesses and their respective safety protocols.
There’s so much new in New York City, enough to make any returning visitor feel like a first-time one. More than 9,000 new hotel rooms are being added to the pipeline in 2022, including the highly anticipated Aman New York, opening this summer on Fifth Avenue; the Ritz-Carlton, NoMad, coming soon and inspired by the new Madison Square Park, and the Hard Rock Hotel New York, which opened this month in Midtown Manhattan. In addition, Renaissance Hotels will open properties in Harlem and Flushing in the coming months, the Virgin Hotel New York City and Hotel Barrière Le Fouquet’s New York are expected to open this summer, Moxy Hotels will open properties on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and in Williamsburg later this year, and The Fifth Avenue Hotel is expected to open this fall.
For foodies, the 30th anniversary of NYC Restaurant Week kicks off in July with a four-week program taking place at a variety of restaurants in all five boroughs.
To make the Broadway experience more accessible to all, several shows including ‘The Lion King,’ ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Come From Away’ have implemented autism-friendly performances, with adjustments such as reducing any jarring sounds and eliminating strobe or spotlights that shine into the audience.
And brand new terminals have debuted at various airports in New York City. The new Terminal B at LaGuardia Airport features 35 gates plus new retail and dining offerings, including Shake Shack and FAO Schwarz. The new Terminal C at LaGuardia Airport will open in the coming months, and later this year Newark Liberty International Airport will debut an updated Terminal A featuring 33 new gates directly connected to a multi-level parking facility. Newark will also break ground on a new 2.5-mile elevated guideway train system later this year, which will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. And finally, Terminal 8 at JFK will debut this December with 130,000 square feet of new and renovated space, serving American Airlines and British Airways. Construction will also begin this year on the New Terminal One at JFK, expected to open in 2026.
In anticipation of the return of international visitors, NYC & Company rolled out its largest-ever global tourism marketing and advertising campaign, ‘It’s Time for New York City,’ in domestic and international markets, including Canada. The campaign also includes an iteration titled ‘It’s Time to Make It NYC’ to help stimulate the city’s meetings and conventions sector. Additionally, NYC & Company launched a B2B tool kit for local businesses that provides engagement opportunities.
And to highlight New York City’s incredible diversity, the organization also announced its ‘Get Local NYC’ campaign to encourage visitors to explore all five boroughs like a New Yorker. The campaign features individual borough travel itineraries and highlights many small and minority-owned businesses across Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, The Bronx and Manhattan. Canadians can also explore multicultural experiences through The Latino Experience in NYC, The Black Experience in NYC and The Asian Experience in NYC.
For more information on travel to New York City go to www.nycgo.com.
Pictured in main image, from l-r: Charmaine Singh, Reach Global Marketing; David Han, NYC & Company; Nicole Bernicker; Rockefeller Center; Fabio Monteiro, SUMMIT One Vanderbilt; Jered Fournier, Broadway Inbound; Renee Wilson; NYC & COmpany; Kai-Ti Kao, Empire State Building Observatory; Christopher Rosenow, Hudson Yards; Eilish Sibalis, Reach Global Marketing; Pat O’Donnell, TopView Sightseeing