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Hochul pledges $450 million to boost tourism industry 

Governor Hochul's office

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 Monday 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 that the tourism industry, and its hundreds of thousands of related jobs, is still far behind its 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 says the $450 million dollars in funding will include $100 million dollars 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 $200 million dollars 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 dollars 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 DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.