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‘If No Tourists Come, I Have No Business’: New York’s Tourism Crisis



Outside Kennedy International Airport’s Terminal 4, the long line of New York City yellow cabs that in years past rotated like a conveyor belt to meet the demand of passenger arrivals has disappeared.

The wraparound rows where riders line up to hail a cab are empty. Where usually a dozen cabs idle to pick up travelers, last Thursday two were parked. The drivers can wait for hours before picking up a single passenger.

“I have no fares. There’s no flights coming in, no tourists visiting and there’s less people on the streets,” said Jean Metellus, a 71-year-old Queens resident who has owned his taxi since 1988. “So there’s no business, but we still have to pay the bills.”

The pandemic and the global travel restrictions introduced in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus have decimated the American tourism industry, taking with it the livelihoods of millions of people. The U.S. Travel Association, a trade group that promotes travel to and within the country, projects that the United States will see the number of international visitors plummet nearly 80 percent this year, to only 18.6 million, compared to 79 million arrivals last year.

While that slump has been devastating for popular tourist destinations like Orlando and Los Angeles, nowhere in the United States is the impact more visible than in New York City, which drew more than 13.5 million international visitors last year. New York City has been for years the most popular big-city destination in the United States.

Now citizens from countries across the world — including Britain, China and Brazil, the three most important markets for tourists visiting New York — are banned from entering the country.

At the state’s five regional airports in July, international arrivals were down by 93 percent, according to Port Authority data, compared to July 2019. At Kennedy alone, the number of arriving international flights fell 70 percent in six months, to 2,121 in July, down from 7,034 in January. In August, fewer than 400,000 international passengers arrived at Kennedy, down a whopping 89 percent from more than 3.5 million during the same month the previous year.

The city’s food and beverage sector has lost nearly 200,000 jobs since March. The occupancy rate for hotels is down to about 40 percent, a decrease from the more than 80 percent in August 2019, according to the hospitality analytics firm STR. Demand for taxis and ride-app services in June was down by 71 percent, according to New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, though lately those numbers have begun to rebound.

Jarring scenes from all around the city lay bare the devastating impact of the absence of tourism.

In Times Square, the vibrant street signs still shine, but more than half of the hotels in the area have closed and foot traffic has cratered. At Columbus Circle, pedicab bikers hunch over their handlebars, looking at their phones. Red tour buses continue to make daily rounds, but they drive empty past abandoned landmarks as their agents scavenge the sidewalks for local tourists.

Souvenir shops across Manhattan that would receive up to as many as 30 customers an hour stand empty with no buyers for the marked-down suitcases, trinkets and “I ❤️ NY” T-shirts.

“If no tourists come, I have no business,” said Prince Mahamud, who runs a souvenir shop on Canal Street in Chinatown, on a recent weekday. “Souvenirs are for tourists,” he said as he lifted a tiny green plastic figurine of the Statue of Liberty. “No New Yorker is buying this.”

In 2019, New York’s tourism industry marked its tenth consecutive year of growth, bringing in almost $7 billion in state and local taxes and supporting more than 403,000 jobs, according to NYC & Company, the city’s tourism marketing agency.

The stream of tourists and the dollars they brought in dried up in March. No landmark or neighborhood was spared.

“Travel and tourism have plummeted, the summer’s biggest events were canceled, Broadway is staying dark, and hotels and restaurants have seen their bookings crater,” said Scott M. Stringer, the New York City comptroller, who serves as the city’s official chief auditing officer.

“It’s been a rough few months,” a doorman at the residential section of the Plaza Hotel said last Tuesday, as he adjusted his blue mask and pointed toward the closed hotel guest entrance. “They’ve all gone.”

He was not only referring to hotel guests, but to fellow employees, who are still out of work as the hotel remains closed.

As of August, the comptroller’s office projected a loss of at least $1.5 billion in all taxable tourism sales for 2021. Nationally, the U.S. Travel Association forecasts a 75 percent drop in international travel spending by the end of year, to $39 billion from $155 billion in 2019.

“Tourism in the city, especially international tourism, will not return to pre-pandemic levels until there is a feeling that travel is safe, and many stores and restaurants cannot survive a prolonged loss of business,” Mr. Stringer said, adding that “massive federal support” is needed to tackle the tremendous scale of the issue.

The impact of the city’s loss is most visible in Times Square, where businesses disproportionately rely on tourists and office workers. The billboards continue to flash and pop, but many of the top attractions and rows of retail shops and restaurants are shuttered. Without the usual swarms of crowds, the bright lights of the neighborhood merely accentuate the emptiness of the space.

Officially, the Times Square area employs around 180,000 workers, provides 15 percent of the city’s economic output and generates $2.5 billion in tax revenue, according to 2016 data collected by The Times Square Alliance, a local trade group. Before the pandemic, around 380,000 pedestrians would pass through the area per day, a number that reached 450,000 on peak days. During the city’s lockdown, pedestrian counts in the square fell by over 90 percent, and now, despite an uptick, foot traffic is still down by 72 percent compared to the same period last year.

The Alliance has found that out of 46 hotels in the area, at least 26 — including the 478-room Hilton in Times Square — have shut their doors. Retailers have arguably done better staying afloat: 48 retailers closed out of 151, but 90 of the 162 restaurants in the area are shuttered. This includes some permanent closures alongside others that still plan to reopen.

On a recent Thursday, a tour bus operator stood on the corner of 48th Street and Seventh Avenue trying to sell bus tickets. Misbah Saley, 47, used to manage a team of tour agents, but his company laid off staff in response to the pandemic and he is back in the field, acting as an agent and dispatcher.

“It’s been very bad and very slow,” he said.

Before the pandemic, Mr. Saley said he would sell 2,000 to 3,000 bus tickets a week. Now he sells about 450, mainly to tourists from the tristate area. “This business has been completely reliant on tourism. Not only are we not seeing customers from other parts of the world, but we’re not seeing customers from farther than other parts of the state.”

A historic draw to the area was Broadway. Every year, the shows contribute more than $15 billion to the local economy and support 97,000 jobs, according to the Broadway League, a trade group. This year, after closing in March, the dark theaters have no plans to reopen until 2021 at the earliest.

Monique Scott, a 30-year-old freelance performer with a focus in musical theater, came to New York City with dreams of performing. With no gigs currently available, she is now working a part-time job at a fitness studio to make ends meet.

“A lot of performers, represented or not, are in limbo,” Ms. Scott said. “We’re all just sitting on our hands and not practicing our craft. We just had to dismiss all the things that we’ve worked so hard on and are in debt for.”

The evaporation of the stream of tourists to Times Square is evident beyond Broadway.

“Before all this, I couldn’t count the number of customers I’d have in a day,” said Ossama Elsayed, a 43-year-old hot dog and pretzel vendor who recently moved his cart from Times Square to a new spot on West 46th Street and Broadway. “Today, I’ve had only three customers,” he said.

“I’m making no money,” he continued. “I have three kids to take care of and my wife is not working. I need this work to pick up.”

The leisure and hospitality industry is the single hardest-hit sector in terms of employment losses, according to state labor department data. Employment in the sector dropped by two-thirds between February and April.

Accommodation and food services lost 252,000 jobs, or 68.9 percent of the February level, but have since recovered by 36 percent or 89,800 jobs. Still, 174,000 people who worked in food and drink services in the five boroughs were out of work in August, according to data published the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

In Grand Central Terminal, more than half of the restaurants, bakeries and breakfast spots are closed. The transportation hub, which buzzed no matter the hour of the day, is now so quiet one recent visitor could hear the rolling wheels of a faraway suitcase.

The Grand Central Oyster Bar largely depends on travelers and commuters. Restaurants in New York City were able to open indoor dining at 25 percent capacity last week, but without the heavy foot traffic of travelers in the terminal, the Oyster Bar, which reopened last week, has been sitting mostly empty.

“We’re down about 90 percent of all business, maybe even more,” said Sandy Ingber, the executive chef. “We put out an email blast to 25,000 people from our database. And still, we’ve got nobody here.”

About 80 percent of customers at the restaurant since reopening had been local return customers. Mr. Ingber sees about 80 to 100 guests a day and operates on a shorter schedule, he said, compared to 1,000 to 1,500 a day he would see this time of the year in 2019.

“We’re waiting to see if the cold drives people indoors,” Mr. Ingber said. “But as far as the Christmas season goes, I don’t think we’ll see much of a difference.”

NYC & Company, the city’s travel arm, was forced to lay off 42 percent of its staff, but the agency is now reimagining tourism in the city, with a recently launched initiative to attract local residents and domestic travelers.

“The biggest challenge is that the impact of the virus has become so prolonged and we want to remind New Yorkers that New York City is still the greatest city in the world and that we have the tools to rebuild it. And we will,” said Fred Dixon, NYC & Company’s president and chief executive.

The agency is offering up to $100 reimbursements for Mastercard purchases, including $10 back on every $20 spent on city experiences and $25 back on every $100 spent on hotels.

Making the most of the newfound calm on Mulberry Street in Little Italy, local New Yorkers, who until now had avoided the area because of the throngs of tourists, are increasingly visiting the neighborhood.

Last week, Julia Gold, a 23-year-old waitress at the Italian restaurant Gelso & Grand, was serving about four tables at the restaurant’s outdoor dining area.

“The biggest difference for us is that there are more local, young New Yorkers coming to eat here. It’s been nice,” she said. “Honestly, we’re still very busy, especially on weekends and nights. It’s hard to say, as this is all uncharted territory for everybody, what the future of dining out is supposed to look like. But I’ve found that locals are dying to come out and eat and be served.”

Hotels that have reopened since lockdown are also reporting local interest, especially from those seeking luxury experiences.

“We are navigating our way through these new challenges one day at a time,” said Isabelle Hogan, the chief concierge at The Mark Hotel on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “We have been pleasantly surprised to see that although NYC may lack ‘tourism,’ a luxury hotel experience is still desired by locals, who either want a change of scenery from their apartment or are between homes.”

Roger Dow, the president and chief executive of the U.S. Travel Association, says the resumption of international travel will be gradual and the most urgent need in the interim is federal support, which is being held up in Congress.

Since approving nearly $3 trillion in economic relief this spring, Congress and the White House have failed to reach agreement on another economic package. On Tuesday, President Trump called on Congress to pass relief for airlines and small businesses, after retreating from negotiations on a broader coronavirus relief package.

“The key thing for people to understand is that the travel business is really 83 percent small businesses,” Mr. Dow said. “Even though you’ve got the big names of the airlines, cruise companies and hotel companies, the majority are small business operators, restaurants, shops, tour guides, all people that really can’t afford to hang on very long.”

In Chinatown, tourists used to explore the bustling streets packed with fish markets, fruit stands, restaurants and local businesses. Gadget shops and souvenir stands line Canal Street, displaying high tech toys and figurines for sale.

“There’s normally so many people out here, and look, nobody is coming here,” said Mr. Mahamud, the shopkeeper on Canal Street. “This was a visitor area. It’s central and Chinatown is famous.”

The 34-year-old Brooklyn resident has cut the price of most of his products nearly in half to try to attract more business. Five dollar pens, he’s now selling for $3. Twenty- to fifteen-dollar toys, he’s now selling for $5. His business used to rake in about $2,000 a day, but now, he said, he only takes in about $200 to $240 a day.

“I’m hoping, by Christmas, it comes back,” he said. “But people are afraid. And if people have no money, they aren’t buying. People are struggling to pay rent and buy food. So they aren’t coming here.”

By: Ceylan Yeginsu and Derek M. Norman
Title: ‘If No Tourists Come, I Have No Business’: New York’s Tourism Crisis
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Published Date: Fri, 09 Oct 2020 09:00:22 +0000

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What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?




People have always liked to drink on board flights, especially people from Australia. Therefore, it should be no surprise to anyone that there was an inflight bar offering in the 1970s.

Ansett Airlines were a major player in the Australian domestic market up until their demise in September 2001. For many years, there were two domestic airlines, Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA) and Ansett.

Ansett’s Inflight Bar

At the time, Ansett operated Boeing 727s, Douglas DC-9s and Fokker F27 Friendships on domestic routes in the country. Airline tickets were quite expensive, with tariffs agreed upon by both airlines thanks to Australia’s weird two-airline policy at the time.

While tickets were expensive and food complimentary, you still had to pay for a drink at the bar. Here is an inflight bar menu from the era, showing the drinks available and their prices.

Clearly the pricing is astounding by today’s standards – 30 cents for a beer? I’ll have thirty-three please! I like how Australian gin is 35c while the imported gin is just 5c more. Which would you choose?

You can tell it is from another era as you can buy cigarettes on board. These price up at 45c, a far cry from the extortionate prices people in the west pay these days for a smoke!

Overall Thoughts

The on board offering is pretty comprehensive for internal flights, and I imagine you’d be hard pressed not to find something you might like. In those times, all payments would have been by cash as well, which would have meant a lot of coinage being handled on board.

Of course, things haven’t changed too much over the years. On many airlines you pay for your drinks just as they did back in the 1970s. Shame the prices aren’t the same of course!

Did you ever buy drinks on board flights from the inflight bar back in the day? Do you still? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Daniel Tanner on via Wikimedia Commons.
Menu image by Ikara on Australian Frequent Flyer.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?
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Published Date: Thu, 19 Nov 2020 15:03:14 +0000

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These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?




The shrimp stop swimming at dusk and gather near the river’s edge. After sunset, they begin to climb out of the water. Then they march. All night long, the inch-long crustaceans parade along the rocks.

The parading shrimp of northeastern Thailand have inspired legends, dances and even a statue. (Locals also eat them.) During the rainy season, between late August and early October, tourists crowd the riverbanks with flashlights to watch the shrimp walk.

Watcharapong Hongjamrassilp first learned about the parading shrimp, and the hundred thousand or more tourists who come each year to see them, about 20 years ago. When he started studying biology, he returned to the topic. “I realized that we know nothing about this,” he said: What species are they? Why and how do they leave the safety of the water to walk upstream on dry land? Where are they going?

Mr. Hongjamrassilp, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, decided to answer those questions himself. His findings appeared this month in the Journal of Zoology.

Working with wildlife center staff members, Mr. Hongjamrassilp staked out nine sites along a river in Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani province. They found shrimp parading at two of the sites — a stretch of rapids, and a low dam.

The videos they recorded revealed that the shrimp paraded from sundown to sunup. They traveled up to 65 feet upstream. Some individual shrimp stayed out of the water for 10 minutes or more.

“I was so surprised,” Mr. Hongjamrassilp said, “because I never thought that a shrimp can walk that long.” Staying in the river’s splash zone may help them keep their gills wet, so they can keep taking in oxygen. He also observed that the shells of the shrimp seem to trap a little water around their gills, like a reverse dive helmet.

DNA analysis from captured shrimp showed that nearly all belonged to the species Macrobrachium dienbienphuense, part of a genus of shrimp that live mostly or fully in freshwater. Many Macrobrachiumspecies spend part of their lives migrating upstream to their preferred habitats.

Most parading shrimp that Mr. Hongjamrassilp captured were young. Observations and lab experiments showed that these shrimp probably leave the water when the flow becomes too strong for them. Larger adult shrimp can handle a stronger current without washing away, so they’re less likely to leave the water.

Walking on land is dangerous for the little shrimp, even under cover of darkness. Predators including frogs, snakes and large spiders lurk nearby, Mr. Hongjamrassilp says. “Literally, they wait to eat them along the river.”

And the shrimp can survive on land for only so long. If the parading crustaceans lose their way, they may dry out and die before they get back to the river. A few times, Mr. Hongjamrassilp came across groups of lost shrimp dead on the rocks, their once-translucent bodies baked pink.

Yet most navigate upstream successfully, and scientists have spotted other freshwater shrimp around the world performing similar feats, scaling dams and even climbing waterfalls.

Leaving the water when the swimming gets tough may have helped these animals spread to new habitats over their evolutionary history, Mr. Hongjamrassilp said. Today, the number of parading shrimp in Thailand seems to be declining. He thinks tourist activity may be a factor, and learning more about the shrimp might help protect them.

The study’s authors made “some really excellent observations,” said Alan Covich, an ecologist at the University of Georgia who was not involved in the research. But understanding why the Ubon Ratchathani shrimp move upstream, and how far they travel, will require more research, he said.

“The most surprising thing to me was that it attracted so many tourists,” Dr. Covich said. He doesn’t know of any other example of people gathering to appreciate a crustacean in quite the same way.

“We have crayfish festivals, we have all kinds of things,” Dr. Covich said, “but generally it’s people eating them, not watching them move.”

By: Elizabeth Preston
Title: These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?
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Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 17:02:07 +0000

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Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?




There are reports that Aer Lingus have applied for 1,500 slots at Manchester Airport for the Summer 2021 season. This will allow the airline to base four aircraft there and service flights to the United States.

At present, there have been no press releases from the airline stating what is going on. Even so, it probably makes sense for the Irish airline to do this in the current market.

Aer Lingus And Manchester

From what is known, there will be three Airbus A321LRs and an A330 based at Manchester. These will operate non-stop services to New York JFK, Boston, Chicago and Orlando, and the season starts on 28 March 2021.

With Thomas Cook having gone out of business, there is likely space for another competitor. New York and Orlando will see competition from Virgin Atlantic, while the other two routes have no airline flying at the moment.

Aer Lingus has been connecting passengers over Dublin very successfully from the UK regions for a while now. Due to this, they will have visibility on traffic patterns, potential yields and more, making this an informed decision.

I imagine they also hope to cream off some of the connecting traffic that routes through London Heathrow on British Airways and Amsterdam on KLM among others. It would prove to be quite successful.

Transatlantic Joint Venture Approval

The US Department of Transport has tentatively given its approval for Aer Lingus to join the oneworld transatlantic joint business. This is operated by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia and Finnair.

These airlines coordinate schedules and pricing, share revenues and expenses. For the consumer, it means more choice – those making a booking on British Airways across the Atlantic will also see options on American Airlines on the BA web site as one example.

Theoretically, it would allow people seeking flights on the British Airways web site to automatically be given options to fly non-stop with Aer Lingus, along with the Manchester-London Heathrow-US city connecting itinerary.

Whether Aer Lingus will join the oneworld alliance, even in a oneworld connect capacity remains to be seen. Frequent flyers would welcome it, especially those in Ireland.

Overall Thoughts

No doubt the boffins have been working behind the scenes to see if the business case for transatlantic flights from Manchester stack up. As things have proceeded as far as a slot application, I would guess chances are good that it will go ahead.

Either way, let’s see if this happens and if it does, whether Aer Lingus will stay for the long haul. If they can make more money elsewhere, they’ll up sticks and leave. Regardless, it is an interesting development in European aviation.

What do you think of Aer Lingus starting transatlantic services from Manchester? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons.
Aer Lingus A321neo LR by Pitmanaaron via Wikimedia Commons.
Business class cabin via One Mile At A Time.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?
Sourced From:
Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 18:03:48 +0000

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