De Blasio, Cuomo need to move aggressively to bring the tourists back

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Letters to the Editor — April 18, 2021

In a grim report Wednesday, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli cited jaw-dropping numbers to document the devastation wrought by the COVID-driven collapse in New York City tourism.

From 2019 to 2020, he notes, Gotham lost nearly three-quarters of its tourist biz, costing it $1.2 billion in tax revenues. Hotels, restaurants, entertainment and recreational venues got blitzed, with many now closed for good. A third of the industry’s jobs vanished, practically overnight, and many others remain on life support.

“The pandemic’s damage” to tourism has been “staggering,” DiNapoli says. “It may take years” before it returns to “pre-pandemic levels.”

Scary thought: The industry is vital to the city. Visitors in 2019 accounted for 19 percent of sales in the retail business, 28 percent in lodging and 22 percent in the food and beverage sector. Altogether, tourism provided 7.2 percent of private-sector jobs and 8.3 percent of city tax collections.

Which is why it’s absolutely crucial for Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to move mountains to revive the business fast.

That starts with making the city safe. Shootings doubled last year and are up another 64 percent this year. Bullets are flying left and right, and last month tourist Chris Ruby, 44, got caught in mid-Manhattan crossfire. The $30 million ad campaign de Blasio announced last month, though useful, won’t keep news like that from would-be visitors.

Also urgent: Ditch all COVID requirements the second it makes sense. Yes, de Blasio wants a full-scale reopening by July 1, but Cuomo may stand in the way, though some things — higher capacity limits in restaurants and elsewhere, for example — should be coming now, not later.

De Blasio should also scrap his plan to block new hotels, even if it means breaking his promise to unions that gave heavily to his failed presidential campaign. Likewise, go easy on the fines and regulations for struggling restaurants and other small businesses. (Maybe even offer tax breaks.)

Reclaiming public places from the mentally ill and substance-addled vagrants who’ve taken them over is also vital, however much de Blasio resists.

One way or another, New York needs tourists back quickly. It can’t come fully back to life without them.

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