NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Have they got a deal for you.

With the economy in the dumps and recovery a long way off, New York tourism officials launched a campaign to get people from the Tri-State Area to take vacations right here in Gotham City.

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As CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reports, pre-COVID Times Square was a hustle-bustle place. Tourists from all over posing with cartoon characters, passing through the Crossroads of the World to go to shows and restaurants.

Nowadays, Times Square is pretty empty, and it’s costing New York City billions and billions of dollars in lost tourism revenue.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

“Business is slow at this moment,” one Times Square operator told Kramer.

That may be an understatement. Last year, over 66 million tourists came to New York City, supporting 403,000 jobs, generating close to $73 billion. That’s why New York City tourism officials have started a new program to get people who live in the Tri-State Area to embark on staycations, where hotels, restaurants, museums and tourist attractions offer special deals to attract visitors.

“It’s certainly important right now. Tourism really needs to be on the road to recovery, and we’re going to start with New Yorkers who can really help us build the vibrancy of the city,” said Christopher Heywood of NYC & Company.

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It’s a sort of “if you build it, they will come” theory. Officials think if people see New Yorkers enjoying the city, others will follow suit.

“Our goal is to help the jobs really come back across all sectors, whether it’s hotels, attractions or restaurants,” Heywood said.

The goal is to really, really, really entice New Yorkers to come back and have staycations right here in New York City, Kramer reported. For example, if you stay at the Benjamin Hotel, you’ll get 40% off every night.

Museums are also offering reduced rates. Fotografiska​ New York ​located in the Flatiron District is the city’s newest photography museum. The museum is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden ​but opened their New York outpost this past December.

“I think all of New York City’s museums and attractions are saying ‘Have we got a deal for you.’ Now’s the time to do this,” said David Filipiak of Fotografiska ​New York.

The hope is that if this program is successful, Times Square will no longer be empty.

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