If you visit the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park, you'll hear chatter from around the world.
It's a welcome sound after tourism plummeted in cities across the world during 2020, including New York. The number of tourists in the Big Apple plummeted from 66.6 million to 22.3 million between 2019 and 2020. As a result, about 31 percent of people employed in tourism-related careers lost their jobs.
"People are feeling good being here, and we're seeing closer to 2019 Winter Village numbers here," said Bryant Park Corporation partnership and events manager John Zeitoun. "Anecdotally, walking around the park and you hear a lot of different languages being spoken, so it's a combination of locals as well as tourists, both domestic and internationally, returning to New York City for the holiday season."
At the outside venue The Lodge by Prime Video at Bryant Park, people gathered for specialty cocktails like the Electric Spritz, The Bolter Old Fashioned, and The Cat's Meow Martini inspired by Amazon Prime shows. Ice skating capacity restrictions have been lifted, and the pop-up market shops are happily serving customers. With everyone still wanting to celebrate the holidays, it is hoping to continue the festivities through March.
"Everything here is sort of returning to how things were before the pandemic hit the city," Zeitoun said.
Though the omicron variant is leading to flight cancellations across the United States due to staffing issues, and people are isolating due to virus exposure, there isn't a shortage of people who want to travel. While international restrictions have dampened some vacation plans, domestic travel still isn't slowing down that much, especially among vaccinated and boosted people. AAA estimates there will be more than 109 million people traveling more than 50 miles this holiday season, within 92 percent of 2019 levels.
"We still might get something, but the risk of getting serious infection or dying is very, very nil or minimal," pointed out Robert Roswell, who was traveling to Detroit for the holidays for the first time since the pandemic began.
Hotels like Moxy in Times Square are starting to see bookings pick up. It estimates about 25 to 35 percent of its customers are international, compared to basically 0 percent in 2020. General manager Christian Brosius is hopeful the volume will continue to increase throughout 2022. And there's hope with more international restrictions lifting at the end of this year, including travel bans on southern African countries.
"The moment when we saw the photo of the Virgin Atlantic's and the British Airways' flights take off at the same time in London and land in synchrony in New York [on November 8], that was when we knew okay, now the international tourists are coming back and we're back in business, so to speak," Brosius said.
Moxy Times Square got festive to celebrate the season, decking the halls with an Instagram-worthy pink sleigh, a pink hot chocolate cocktail known as an Apres Ski, and other holiday decorations to boot. With demand still high, it will continue serving that spirit a little bit longer.
"The first quarter is looking strong," Brosius said. "And now we're waiting, really, on the businesses and everyone else to come back and travel and visit us as well."