NYC & Company Says Early March Data Shows 43% Rise In Hotel OccupancyBy Cory James

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The pandemic dealt a painful blow to New York City’s economy, driving most business to a standstill, but now, some merchants are starting to see signs that better days might be ahead.

The heart of New York City is starting to get its heartbeat back again, and David Cohen is witnessing it return from his Grand Slam Gift Store in Times Square.

READ MORE: New York City Restaurants Mark 1 Year Since COVID Restrictions Started

“Business has started to pick up,” he told CBS2’s Cory James. “Slowly we’ve been seeing more and more domestic travelers come in, more local customers … You can feel the energy.”

Sergio Ramirez felt that, too. He has also noticed things are different here than other cities he’s recently visited.

“This is actually more busy than Chicago,” he said.

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Chris Heywood with NYC & Company says early March data shows hotel occupancy rose over 43%, making it one of the strongest weeks since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“You’re starting to see the streets get busier on weekends. You’re feeling that foot traffic increase. You’re seeing more people at restaurants, and you’re hearing people just get out and about,” he said.

They’re positive changes that do not overshadow the true hardships plaguing many businesses.

Many office spaces throughout the city are still left empty with an unclear return for most in sight.

READ MORE: When Will Office Workers Return To Manhattan? ‘It May Never Reach The Same Level’ Says One Expert

It’s a hard tale for Beth Sheinis, who lost her restaurant of 11 years.

“We came in on a recession and we went out on a pandemic,” she said.

But progress is being made.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Shakespeare in the Park will return during the summer, beginning July 5.

“This is hope. This is New York City coming back to life,” he said.

It’s a gradual turnaround that is building confidence, even in some of our smallest out-of-town guests.

“Do you plan on coming back?” James asked one child.

“Yes. Because I like it here,” the child said.

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Some business owners are hoping once the domestic quarantine travel advisory is lifted in April, even more people will come out.

Cory James