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NYC looks to Long Island for tourism boost post-pandemic

The scene outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The scene outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the Upper East Side in October, 2016. Credit: Linda Rosier

A plan to help resuscitate the Big Apple's post-pandemic tourism sector is looking east.

Long Islanders are being eyed by NYC & Company, New York City's visitors bureau, to come for day trips and overnight stays, enjoy the museums, shows and other attractions offered in the five boroughs — and pour money into the local economy.

"Long Island is such an important feeder for New York City," said Chris Heywood, a spokesman for NYC & Company, the city's visitors bureau. He added: "It’s still such a natural fit for us."

On Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a $30 million marketing campaign for tourism, called "NYC Reawakens," set to debut in June. It's a plan meant to draw the numbers that predated the coronavirus pandemic and government-imposed shutdowns: 66 million visitors annually in 2019, and the more than $44 billion they spent.

In 2020, only 22.3 million people visited New York City — and those figures include the first three months of the year, before the pandemic imploded the tourism industry, and many of the 300,000 related jobs. De Blasio's announcement says the city hopes that by 2024, the city will welcome 69.3 million visitors, which would be a record.

There are 2.8 million potential visitors — Long Island's population — and the city's tourist bureau says regional visitors from the Island would be key to meeting that goal.

Long Island — part of the target tristate and Northeast market — will be a target, Heywood said, as "more than half of our visitors are within driving distance of the city."

Even as the city hopes to welcome Long Islanders, it's facing the prospect of fewer office workers in Manhattan to eat out during breaks, window shop during lunchtime or catch a Broadway show after work.

A survey earlier this year showed that only 22% of Manhattan's major employers plan to require office workers to return full-time.

De Blasio, announcing the plan, said there were 36.4 million visitors forecast to come to the city by the end of 2021, recovering more than half of those in 2019.

It wouldn't be the first time New York City looked to Long Island and other suburbs for tourism in the aftermath of disaster: In the months after the 9/11 attacks, the city counted on the demographic to supplement international tourism that dropped in the aftermath.

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