Adams touts rebounding tourism sector as COVID-19 positivity rate hits 14%

Mayor Eric Adams host a Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) kick off at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn. Thursday, July 7, 2022.
Photo courtesy of Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Tourism is back! 

As the summer gets into full swing, Mayor Eric Adams took a victory lap Thursday, announcing that the city’s vital tourism sector has rebounded well within pre-pandemic levels since he took office in January, just as the citywide COVID-19 positivity rate is on the rise.

The mayor said his administration has successfully “navigated us through the turbulent times of COVID-19” even though the citywide weekly positivity rate climbed over 14 percent Wednesday, according to city data. And positivity rates have topped 20 percent in certain neighborhoods in each borough. However, death rates from latest Omicron variant, BA.5, remain low because of high vaccination rates in the city.

According to Adams, indicators like hotel occupancy and the number of tourists visiting popular attractions like the Statue of Liberty and Times Square show the city is well on its way to recovering its once-thriving tourism industry that was decimated by the pandemic over two years ago.

“The COVID data is showing that this administration, with a steady hand, has navigated us through the turbulent times of COVID-19,” Adams said. “COVID-19 is a formidable opponent. And if you don’t have the right partnerships, like we’ve developed with Speaker [Adrienne} Adams, making these right decisions, it’s difficult to navigate this ship through these turbulent waters.”

The mayor said that, as of last week, hotel demand was at 740,000, which he said is 94 percent of pre-pandemic demand.

Additionally, he said the Statue of Liberty has recovered 80 percent of its pre-pandemic visitors and Times Square’s weekly average foot-traffic has exceeded 2019 levels – with 440,000 people visiting the Crossroads of the World last Saturday.

“People are coming to New York to see the lady in a harbor and enjoy what the city has to offer,” Adams said.

On top of all that, Adams said, New York City & Company –  a private organization that promotes the city’s tourism industry – estimated last month the city will get 56 million tourists this year compared to 33 million last year. And 33,000 new jobs have been created since January 1, he added.

The mayor made the announcement at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn during an unrelated news conference promoting the start of his revamped Summer Youth Employment program. He was joined by Deputy Mayor for Strategic Initiatives Sheena Wright, City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and Department of Youth and Community Development Commissioner Keith Howard.

The new coronavirus wave comes just as Adams’ administration last week nixed its own color-coded COVID-19 alert system, which told people the risk level for catching the virus and when they should take preventative measures, originally rolled out in March. During the press conference Adams said the color-coded system was not adequate for addressing the latest COVID wave, in response to a reporter’s question about why he ditched the system.

“It’s almost as though you’re using old weapons to fight a new war,” Adams said. “The color coded system was fighting an old war and as COVID shifted, it became a new war. So, it was good for the old war of the variants we were fighting, it was not good for the war that we’re currently fighting. And I think it was brilliant on the part of our doctors and medical professionals to say ‘we’re not going to remain stagnant when we fight in a new war.’”