With attractions reopening and indoor dining set to return at 25pc capacity on September 30, what is the future of tourism for the Big Apple?
In the early days of the pandemic, New York was the focal point of the outbreak's wrath. Now, after shutting down for months to flatten the growth curve of the novel coronavirus, the city is opening up again, for residents and visitors alike.
"Things have been really nice (these) past couple months, especially with our numbers dropping," says Benjamin Liong Setiawan, a lifestyle writer who has lived in New York for over 20 years. "It's been nice to be able to enjoy the city again."
However, that doesn't mean New Yorkers want visitors to expect business as usual. While attractions are reopening and indoor dining is set to return at 25pc capacity on Sept. 30, much of New York City is still closed or struggling to remain open with coronavirus precautions. Not to mention, its residents are still experiencing an emotional toll.
"I think a lot of people probably did experience PTSD," Setiawan says. "All that we ask as New Yorkers is that you respect the people that live here and the rules that have been put in place so that we can keep everybody safe."
Chris Heywood, the executive vice president for global communications at NYC & Company, says that people from about 30 states are currently required to quarantine for 14 days on reaching New York, whether they're arriving by plane, car or bus.
Here's a look at what's happening.
1. Hotels and accommodation
Whether New York City hotels stayed open throughout the pandemic or are only just beginning to reopen, many are offering packages to bring in more business, Heywood says.
They're also carrying out enhanced cleanings, putting up sneeze guards at front desks and sometimes suspending amenities (such as restaurants and fitness centres).
"It's definitely 'safety first'; that's kind of the ethos of the city right now," Heywood says.
Setiawan is recommending visitors find a hotel based on what they would like to do on their trip. If the primary focus is visiting museums, for example, then they might look for accommodation uptown.
"If [they] want to be by the water, there's 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. It's beautiful and has a pool, and [they] can explore Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo and Cobble Hill," he says.
2. Museums, parks and attractions
Broadway shows, dancing at nightclubs or going to concerts are not options for now. However, the government is allowing more and more businesses to reopen.
To navigate the ever-changing status of businesses, the city's tourism board is keeping an updated website of what's open and how to get tickets if needed. "There is a bevy of things to see and do right now," Heywood says.
To reopen as safely as possible, attractions have tweaked their operations in a number of ways. For example, visiting the High Line trail requires getting a free timed-entry pass ahead of time. The Empire State Building is limiting its visitor capacity by 50pc and is performing enhanced cleaning. It also advertises that during its recent renovation, the building installed "state-of-the-art air purification" systems. Like the High Line, guests must have reservations and will have their temperatures checked before they are permitted to enter. They must also wear face covering and observe social distancing throughout the experience.
As museums, including the American Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, reopen, "many of them obviously are following all of those social distancing rules and [doing] pre-ticketing and limiting how many people can come in," Heywood says.
Setiawan is a fan of simply walking around the city and spending time in its parks, like Madison Square Park, Prospect Park and Washington Square Park.
In Central Park, for example, there are the free audio guides available at notable sites. The actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus narrates information about Bow Bridge, for one, and the actress Isabella Rossellini explains the Ramble.
"If you're uptown, there is Riverside Park, which is really beautiful and along the Hudson River," Setiawan says. "There's places to ride your bike. There's places to picnic. There are some tennis courts up there."
3. Food and drink
New York City's bars and restaurants have been deeply wounded by the pandemic, and the list of permanently closed establishments is still growing. As you visit places to eat and drink, future visitors should be mindful of the hospitality industry's trauma.
"You're watching someone drown - try and be a little bit more empathetic," says Sother Teague, the beverage director of the world-renowned bar Amor y Amargo.
Teague's advice to visitors who want to be respectful bargoers includes tipping well -- fewer customers means fewer tips for employees who rely on the gratuities to pay rent. Plus, employees are doing extra work to set up safe sidewalk accommodations.
Teague is also recommending people get to bars early.
The city's coronavirus restrictions require guests to leave establishments by 11 p.m., so bars need more business earlier in the evening. Finally, there is the option of ordering bottled cocktails to go if they're available.
"You can get your cocktails to go and walk around the city; you couldn't do that prior to the pandemic. The open-container laws were different," Setiawan says. "It's nice that that's been relaxed a bit so people can support their favourite bars, try to help people out and also have a great cocktail to go. Who doesn't want that?"
Setiawan's favourite places to grab takeout during the pandemic have been Tappo Thin Crust Pizza and restaurants in Manhattan's Chinatown, "since they were the first restaurants to be affected due to misplaced fear and racism," he says. He recommends two restaurants: Tasty Hand-pulled Noodles; and Noodle Village, for soup dumplings.
Setiawan also recommends checking out a self-guided food crawl hosted by the coronavirus relief organisation Send Chinatown Love. Through September, the crawl highlights 13 restaurants, cafes, bakeries and other businesses, in hopes of bring tourism back to the neighbourhood.
For outdoor dining, Setiawan has enjoyed Marea across the street from Central Park for pasta and seafood, and Rezdora. "Whenever I go there, I feel like I'm going to a friend's house because everybody's just so lovely," he says. "The food is great, but also the people are great. So it makes you want to go back and you feel like a local."
NB: In accordance with Government policy, which is based on official public health advice, the Department of Foreign Affairs continues to advise against non-essential travel overseas. There are exemptions to this included on a short 'green list', but these exemptions do not currently include the US. You can see specific travel advice for the US here.
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