The return of business travel is critical to New York City’s recovery, so the recent spike in bookings for conventions, trade events and business meetings is slowly building optimism. About 20% of the city’s 66 million visitors have historically arrived for business – and transportation providers, hotels, restaurants, venues and retail stores all count them among their best customers.

While NYC & Company expects domestic business travel to take a few more years to reach pre-pandemic levels (add an extra year for international business travel), the firm predicts business arrivals to reach 65% of pre-pandemic levels in 2022, with leisure travel hitting 85% of previous volumes this year.

Flight arrivals are still down, but they are rising. In December, 9.5 million passengers arrived at city-area airports, compared to 11.9 million in Dec. 2019.

As of mid-March, the city is no longer requiring indoor venues to check for proof of vaccination. It is not yet clear when vaccine checks will end at certain businesses, like Broadway theaters, but overall, this should help increase business citywide.

Meanwhile, fresh from the chaos of the pandemic shutdowns, many of the city’s arts organizations say they are thankful for funding they’ve received from both public and private sources to help museums, theaters, nonprofits and the artists themselves recover from a year when audiences stayed home.

In addition to drawing tourists, the performing arts industry employs tens of thousands of workers. As of Dec., city employment in the arts, entertainment and recreation sectors hit 73,400… 20,000 short of its early-2020 level, according to the state Department of Labor. NYC lost 72% of all performing arts-related jobs during the pandemic (the most of any industry) but has recouped two-thirds of them.

Many are hopeful the return of tourists and locals will aid in the city’s recovery, particularly if cultural and performing arts institutions drop vaccine mandates. NYC visitors reportedly spend 12% of their dollars on arts and recreation ($5.5 billion annually), according to NYC & Company’s 2019 annual report.

Sources: Crain’s New York Business, Crain’s New York Business

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