Crain’s New York Business: How the tourism sector sees its future

Crain’s New York Business: How the tourism sector sees its future


Updated October 26, 2021 4:06 PM


Vijay Dandapani, Fred Dixon, Charlotte St. Martin and Melba Wilson will capture a snapshot of New York City’s recovering tourism industry, share projections about what its full comeback will be like and explain what the sector’s businesses will be doing while they wait for 30 million tourists to return.


The leaders from the hotel world, tourism agency, Broadway and restaurants will discuss the return of international tourism and the lessons from Covid-19 on Thursday at a virtual New York Now forum from Crain’s New York Business, in a discussion moderated by senior reporter Cara Eisenpress. 


The pandemic experience is expected to have a lasting impact on the nature of New York’s appeal as a tourist destination.


“We need a totally different dimension and perspective to sell the city as a destination and a place to come back to,” said Dandapani, the president and CEO of the Hotel Association of New York City.


The industry has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. Total visitors fell by 67%, to just 22.3 million in 2020—most of them in the early months, before the city closed down. In previous crises, hotel occupancy dropped to about 60%; in this recession, the rate plummeted to 14% and is only just now returning to around 60%.


Yet despite the tough data, anecdotes from performing arts venues and once-again thriving restaurants create a preview of what is to come, and the panelists will discuss some of the brightest indicators they have seen. There have been hundreds of high-energy performances already on Broadway, many sold out. Restaurants are able to fill indoor and outdoor seats, even without the return of international travel.  And a new venue at the Javits Center has begun to entice business travelers to book conferences, a first step towards improving the city’s stature as a global business hub for meetings.


“Our competition is not Washington D.C. or Chicago,” said Dandapani in advance of the event. “Ours are London, Paris, Hong Kong and Sydney.”


The business leaders will make news as they discuss when this dynamic tourism future will arrive, whether it matters if New York City is an affordable destination and what kinds of immediate changes to look for in the city as visitors from Europe return in mid-November.