As the city reawakens from the long pandemic, some of the most iconic spots are now open for business.
Tourists flocked to Central Park Thursday. For some, a stop at the nearby Plaza Hotel was once again part of the plan.
The beloved landmark on Fifth Avenue and Central Park South has been a city staple since 1907.
For the first time since the COVID-19 shutdown, patrons like Alexis Stewart and the ladies in her family wee allowed back inside. They were sure to enjoy an Eloise Tea Party at the famed Palm Court.
“I just love spending time with my family and it feels like home,” said Stewart.
The lavish venue is stocked with supplies of tea and champagne, even if a 2021 hotel experience requires social distancing and a reservation.
Plaza Hotel Managing Director George Cozonis said the reopening is symbolic.
“New York is finally reopen and beginning to welcome guests again from around the country and around the world,” said Cozonis. “We felt until the Plaza reopens we can’t say New York is reopened.”
As more hotels follow the Plaza’s lead, COVID impacts on tourism will change.
The numbers of visitors to the city plummeted from a high of 66 million in 2019 to just 23 million in 2020.
With that came 200,000 jobs lost.
To aid in recovery, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order that eliminated a nearly six percent hotel room occupancy tax rate for three months, starting June 1.
According to Vijay Dandapani, the CEO of the Hotel Association of New York City, this incentive allows hotels to lower the cost of their rooms, urging customers to return.
“5.875% is nothing to sneeze at. It’s a $200 rate, you’re looking at $12 bucks you save on a single night.”
Dandapani says hotels are still only operating at around 40% capacity.
Plus, international travel restrictions remain in place as well as a decrease in business and convention travel.
Even so, the city’s economy is slowly moving in a profitable path.
“Our hotels are ready to work again and most importantly [in a] safe, clean and welcoming city,” said Dandapani.
Health and safety of guests and employees will remain a priority. And instead of large galas, for now, the Plaza expects to see smaller, more intimate gatherings.
The goal is to get back to 100% capacity by the popular holiday season.