New York’s big New Year’s celebration is back, giving tourism industry a lift

November 16, 2021, 11:34 PM UTC

New York City’s tourist industry received a shot in the arm from a decision to allow the famous New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square after a very pared-down invite-only version last year due to the pandemic.

On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that anyone who is vaccinated against COVID or passes a COVID test will be able to watch the famous ball drop, with no limit on capacity.

Attendees (except those under 5 years old who must be accompanied by a vaccinated adult) will be required to show proof of vaccination and a valid photo ID, mirroring NYC’s requirement for indoor dining, fitness, and entertainment. Those ineligible for a vaccine can still attend the celebration, but must show proof of a negative COVID test within 72 hours prior to the event.

“Medically able” unvaccinated minors and adults will be asked to wear face masks for the duration of the event.    

A packed Times Square is just what many New York businesses have been hoping for after taking a significant hit during the pandemic, largely due to the absence of foreign tourists. With a predicted $24 billion in tourist spending this year, the city is still nowhere near what visitor spending was like pre-pandemic, which was about $47 billion annually.

Nationwide, travel is rebounding from the lows during the pandemic. For Thanksgiving, AAA predicts “the highest single year increase [in travel] since 2005,” with an anticipated 53.4 million people traveling. While AAA doesn’t expect to reach pre-pandemic levels (2019 saw 56 million Thanksgiving travelers), the forecast is still a significant jump from 47.1 million last year.

In his announcement today, de Blasio described this New Year celebration as “full-strength” and invited “everyone [to] come on down, we’re celebrating.”

So far, about 30.7 million people have received a booster shot and 68.6% of the U.S. population have received at least one vaccination dose.

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