NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — International tourists will soon be flocking to our shores, and New York City is eager to welcome them back.
As CBS2’s Kevin Rincon reports, hotels in the city have started to see an influx of people. The line inside the Hyatt Grand Central was long Friday, and the rooms are almost sold out.READ MORE: New York City Announces First-In-The-Nation Vaccine Mandate For Private Companies
“To see the life back in New York City in Midtown right now is very exciting,” said Joe Gaeta, area director of sales and marketing at Hyatt.
Most people at the hotel are from the Tri-State Area, but that’ll change as the United States opens its borders to vaccinated international tourists Monday.
“We’re seeing bookings, a majority coming in from the UK, Spain, Italy, France, Canada,” Gaeta said.
Luring back those visitors is something the city is focused on.
Watch Kevin Rincon’s report —
The 800-person ferry to the Statue of Liberty is looking a little sparse without international travelers on board.
“As we struggle to get back after the pandemic, the international piece is 27-30% of our traffic here, as it is for most New York City attractions, so it’s critical they come back,” said Mike Burke, with Statue City Cruises.
He’s hopeful next week brings a big surge in business.
“We’ve already seen a 64% increase in web traffic from the international market. It was 16% two weeks ago,” he told CBS2’s Ali Bauman.
New York is open for business.
Friday night, local fans packed Madison Square Garden for Billy Joel’s return, “The Book of Mormon” reopened on Broadway and the Rockettes returned to Radio City Music Hall with their Christmas Spectacular.
“We’ve been coming for, like, 18 years, so we missed last year, and it was great to be back,” New Jersey resident Noreen Bosshargt said.READ MORE: New York City's New Vaccine Mandate Also Impacts Kids 5-11
“It’s just a really special family tradition to come see the show every year,” New Yorker Carrie Burk said.
One key part that’s been missing is the international tourists, in Times Square especially.
“This is the last piece of the pie. It’s the international visitor, the most lucrative segment, so it has not felt the same,” said Chris Heywood, with the city’s official tourism agency, NYC & Company.
Heywood says foreign travelers are key to our recovery.
“It’s usually about 20% of volume, but they represent 50% of spending because they tend to stay longer and spend more while they’re here,” Heywood said.
For that very reason, the international crowd also helps Broadway.
“They represent about 15% of our business on an annual basis. They stay longer, they buy more tickets. We love having them,” said Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League.
Another sector eager for their return — bars and restaurants.
“Not having these international tourists just compounded the crisis,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance.
There are also new attractions that have opened since the pandemic, like Little Island in the Hudson River and the Edge, the observation deck in Hudson Yards.
Now is a good a time as any to welcome tourists back.
“The holiday season in New York City, it’s quintessential New York, so people will want to be here. We have to start somewhere. It’s great news. We’re optimistic. We also need to be realistic,” Rigie said.
Meanwhile, the city comptroller’s office says air travel in the region has stalled since September, 40% below pre-pandemic trends, but on Monday that too should change as we inch closer to normal.MORE NEWS: Westchester County Issues State Of Emergency As COVID-19 Hospitalizations Double
CBS2’s Kevin Rincon contributed to this report.