After boom years, New York palaces mourn the jet-set

They booked a $ 1,000 room the same morning and went down for one night at the prestigious Pierre Hotel, two hours by car from their home: John Farrell and his wife are part of a new local clientele including large new hotels. -Yorkis must be content with the pandemic after years of boom.

No more jet-set, the mixing of languages ​​from around the world or the ballets of yellow taxis and limousines in front of this hotel facing Central Park, famous for its gala evenings or its suites. After six months of closure and the end of tourism and business travel, this gem, taken over in 2005 by the Indian group Taj, reopened in mid-September but is only a shadow of itself.

Neither foreign tourists nor American customers

Usually hotels are full in this season, despite an average price of $ 300 a night. “It starts at the end of August with the US Open, then the UN General Assembly, every convention imaginable, fundraising galas, fall weddings, then Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. . It’s non-stop“, emphasizes François-Olivier Luiggi, manager of this hotel with 189 rooms and 80 apartments belonging to wealthy individuals.

In addition to foreign tourists, who accounted for nearly a quarter of pre-pandemic visitors, theAmerican tourists are also virtually banned : New York has forced since June any visitor arriving from states where the rate of Covid positivity exceeds 10% (around thirty states currently) to self-isolate for 14 days.

Instead of coming by plane, from Europe or California, it is time to vacation near home, the “staycation“.

Customers now arrive by car, for short stays of 24 or 48 hours, often to see relatives, explains Mr. Luiggi.

Despite ubiquitous distancing and disinfection measures, the hotel is peaking at around 25% fill, with more than half of the 400 employees unemployed, he says, without despairing: “The Pierre has been around for 90 years, it will still be there in 90 years“.

200 of the 700 hotels in the city forced to close

Not all establishments can say the same. Despite a boost from the federal government, including through loans for small businesses, some 200 of New York’s 700 hotels are currently closed.

Nearly 140 only run by welcoming caregivers and people exposed to the virus who cannot isolate themselves at home or homeless people whose reception centers have closed with the pandemic, underlines Vijay Dandapani, president of the Hotel Association of New York, which represents some 300 hotel establishments.

Those reserved for “true” visitors are only 10% full on average, according to him, and some 25,000 employees in the sector are unemployed.

While in Europe, hotels “can benefit from a little recovery in intra-European tourism, we have nothing”, he said. Some have definitely thrown in the towel, like the famous Times Square Hilton, which had 478 rooms.

A sharp drop after years of record growth

The fall is vertiginous for the “Big Apple“, which had seen, in recent years, hotels sprout like mushrooms, in Manhattan but also in the neighborhoods near Brooklyn and Queens.

With a annual number of tourists who flew from record to record to exceed 65 million in 2018, the investment was tempting. And the city found its account, touching last year $ 3.1 billion in taxes paid by the sector, according to Mr. Dandapani.

The supply of rooms had increased so much over the past 10 years that “the New York hotel market was starting to show signs of slowing down“before the pandemic,” said Ramya Murali, hotel sector analyst at Deloitte.

New York was “the first market to undergo substantial containment measures“and the local authorities are”conservative on the reopening“, making the city a market closed to travelers for the longest period, she emphasizes.

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