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Hochul pledges $450 million to boost New York's tourism industry

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul wears a necklace with the word "vaxed" during an event in the Harlem neighborhood of New York, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021.
Mary Altaffer
Associated Press
New York Governor Kathy Hochul

New York Governor Kathy Hochul, on the first full day that fully vaccinated foreign tourists were permitted to travel to the U.S., pledged to help the state’s tourism industry to recover by providing nearly half a billion dollars in grants.

Hochul, in an event at New York City’s Museum of Natural History attended by business and union leaders, said the economic future of the city and the state are tied to the tourism industry.

“The only way we are going to say that New York is truly back, is when the tourism industry is back as well,” Hochul said. “I believe they are interconnected.”

Broadway shows have reopened and sporting events are back for fully vaccinated patrons. But Hochul said the tourism industry and its hundreds of thousands of related jobs are still far behind their pre-pandemic levels. A report by the state comptroller finds the tourism industry lost $60 billion dollars due to COVID-19. The Natural History Museum’s attendance and revenues declined by 40% since COVID-related shutdowns began in March of 2020. Hotel occupancy is down 25% statewide, 30% in New York City.

“The hotels are not back, our tourism related businesses like charter buses that used to transport people from the city across the state to Niagara Falls they’re not back,” Hochul said. “There are so many jobs that are still not back yet. And we cannot be blind to this any longer.”

Hochul said the $450 million in funding will include $100 million in incentives for restaurants, hotels and tour guide companies to hire back workers more quickly. Employers who keep those workers on for six months would receive a $5,000 bonus. Another $100 million will be in the form of direct payments to 36,000 affected workers.

The governor said she will propose in her 2022 state budget taking a $200 million from the pandemic small business recovery grant program for small business ventures that were created just before or during the pandemic, and are not eligible for existing funds.

$25 million would fund a marketing campaign to bring conventions back to New York and another $25 million would expand the “I love New York” tourism campaign to target select foreign countries to bring back even more tourists.

Hochul said an added incentive for visitors is that New York City, once the world’s epicenter of the pandemic, has an infection rate of less than 1%.

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.