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NYC tourism spending dropped 73% amid pandemic, comptroller report says

Spending by visitors to New York City dropped

Spending by visitors to New York City dropped by 73% during the coronavirus pandemic, leading to a $1.2 billion decline in tax revenue, according to a report released by the state comptroller’s office. Credit: Newsday / Matthew Chayes

Tourism to the world's top destination in the United States took a devastating hit during the coronavirus pandemic. Visitor spending in New York City dropped by 73% during the pandemic, leading to a $1.2 billion decline in tax revenue, according to a report released Wednesday by the state comptroller’s office.

About 43.7 million fewer visitors came to the city in 2020 compared to a year earlier, ending a 10-year period of growth in tourism to the city, said the report by the comptroller, Tom DiNapoli. That’s a two-thirds decline from the record just a year earlier of 66.6 million visitors.

The dropoff — coming as governments around the world imposed lockdowns to halt the spread of the deadly virus and as the city became the pandemic’s early epicenter — was universally stark.

Visitor spending was $13 billion, 73% less than the $47.4 billion the year before. The visitors’ economic impact dropped to $20.2 billion from $80.3 billion. Employment in the tourism industry declined by 89,000 workers, or 31.4%, from the record 283,200 people that had been employed in the industry.

The city is the world's top tourism destination for international visitors, according to the U.S. State Department.

DiNapoli's analysis comes as Mayor Bill de Blasio last week announced a $30 million marketing campaign to promote, and resuscitate, tourism to the city.

Among the campaign’s targets will be Long Island. The city, its travel bureau said, will encourage locals to do both day trips and overnight stays.

DiNapoli, speaking about his report in Times Square behind a statue of legendary entertainer George M. Cohan, urged Long Islanders to visit New York City to enjoy theater, museums, the opera and more.

"One of the advantages of living on Long Island is that we live close to the city," said DiNapoli, himself a Nassau County resident. He added: "For people that live on Long Island and Westchester, just think about all the folks who travel from all over the globe ... who want to come to New York City, and here we're next-door neighbors to New York City."

De Blasio has said that he expects the Broadway Theater District to reopen in September.

Charlotte St. Martin, the Broadway League trade group president, said Long Islanders and other locals should come check out a show.

"The city won't be as busy, so they can get around, get better seats," she said, "and be part of the first to come back and bring this city back together."

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