NYC Projects a 70% Increase in Tourism This Year with 8 Million International Visitors

The Big Apple is ready for a big rebound.

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Editor's Note: We know COVID-19 is continuing to impact your travel plans. Should you travel now, be sure to familiarize yourself with the CDC's latest guidance on domestic and international travel as well as local requirements, protocols, and restrictions for both your destination upon your arrival and your home city upon your return. Be safe out there.

New York City looks to regain its footing in the tourism market this year, at least according to new projections released by its tourism promo agency, NYC & Co. 

According to the agency's 2022 forecast, first reported by The New York Times, tourism is expected to grow 70% in New York City from 2021 levels, with a predicted 56.4 million visitors. That number includes 8 million international tourists, a group barred from entering the US until late last year due to COVID-19 restrictions. New York is rolling out the welcome mat, restarting tourism ad campaigns in cities across Europe, Asia, South America, and more, and partnering with airlines for flight and hotel discounts.

Tourism is one of NYC's most important industries, supporting around 300,000 jobs and bringing tens of billions of dollars to the economy. The COVID-19 pandemic devastated this sector, bringing international and domestic travel to a grinding halt. One hundred fifteen hotels in the city remain closed, and employment is still off by about 100,000 jobs compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The most significant question mark remains China. While most countries have dropped travel restrictions in the wake of widespread vaccination, China is sticking with its restrictive COVID Zero policies and has barred its citizens from most international travel since 2020. Around 1.1 million Chinese tourists visited NYC in 2019, marking the fastest-growing international tourism demographic. NYC & Co.'s forecast includes nearly half-a-million Chinese visitors, but there's no guarantee they'll actually be permitted to come. 

With new hotels opening, occupancy up, and most remaining COVID-19 restrictions fading away, many city officials are optimistic about the future of tourism in NYC.

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Chris Mench is an editor focusing on NYC News at Thrillist. You can follow him on Twitter for more of his work.