Opening of ice rinks is underway, decorating is in progress and this year’s Thanksgiving Day parade will take place as usual.
After 20 months in a long distance relationship, New York is ready to welcome tourists.
Visitors are warned, however, that prices may rise and menus will be more limited. Even the softest toilet paper might not be available.
Covid invites you to explore the world of travel.
- How do you travel to the US?
Before Covid there were 65 million tourists who came to town each year. These included more than 1 million people from the UK.
Businesses across New York have begun to prepare for the anticipated tsunami of foreign tourists, now that they’ve lifted their ban from visiting New York City from last year.
Behind the scenes, however, there are many things that seem far off from what is normal.
“Cutlery, plateware, glassware, take-out containers, paper products… you name it, it’s across the board, even toilet paper,” says Philippe Massoud, listing the things that are difficult to get hold of thanks to supply chain challenges.
Ilili is Ili’s Lebanese restaurant located on 5th Avenue. He is also the chef and owner.
Matching tableware and proper specification of toilet paper are important for a venue of a high standard. He says that “sandpaper” is unacceptable.
The US, like the UK is experiencing supply chain bottlenecks and sharply rising costs, as well as staffing shortages which are affecting day-to-day operations.
Massoud states that “New York’s heart beats hard and strong”. He is certain tourists will enjoy the same experiences, but they need to make reservations for eating out.
Ilili had to shut down at lunchtimes. Many former staff members who worked tables and pursued Broadway careers have since left the city.
Massoud says, “Everybody is having trouble finding staff.”
With food prices rising, he said he had no other choice than to raise his prices.
Ilili is learning to adapt. However, not all managed to do so. As in other major cities, hotels and nightclubs were forced to close.
New venues, such as a huge new nightclub in Times Square, are opening all the time.
In fact it’s a moment of reinvention, that New York is grasping with enthusiasm, according to Fred Dixon, head of New York City & Co the body responsible for promoting the city.
He mentions the many outdoor dining spaces that line the streets of the city, which provide safer and ventilated places to eat.
New Yorkers have remained cautious even though Covid was ripping through New York at the outbreak of the pandemic. Masks are worn not just on streets and public transportation, but also in shops.
To dine in New York’s indoor restaurants, or to attend sporting events, you must show proof of vaccination. This rule also applies to tourists.
Dixon states that while there may be challenges ahead, “some of these innovations have kept New York alive and vibrant.”
His organisation was determined from the moment the first lockdown took place to keep NYC in the thoughts of potential travellers who were stuck in lockdown at home. The UK ran an “New York missing you” billboard campaign to remind potential travellers what it was they had forgotten.
Now with museums open, rules relaxed and Broadway set to return to full capacity by spring, NYC &Co is switching messages to “New York is ready for you”.
It’s harder to stay prepared than before and people visiting the Nom Wah Tea Parlor (100 year old) in New York’s Chinatown may have to show patience.
Chinatown was bustling with tourists before the pandemic. They bought trinkets and noodles, as well as dumplings. The rhetoric about the “China virus” and the subsequent xenophobia meant that it was more difficult to hit than expected.
Wilson says that it is not easy to get back to normal overnight.
“The wait is worth it.” [for service]He warns that the wait might take longer and we may not have all the menu items, so the prices might be higher than they were last time.
These are the things we should remember when we wake from Covid’s slumber.
Lizy Yee from nearby Kam Hing Bakery managed to maintain the low price for her sponge cakes, but she’s busy stockpiling ingredients to combat rising prices.
She said, “We want to have three to four more months of reserve.”
We are using basements and renting storage spaces. Already, she has bought 50 sugar bags of 50 lb. She wants to buy bulk flour and flavorings. It is continuing to search for other suppliers or better deals.
Luxury market participants are following a similar approach.
Rebecca Hubbard, general manager at Lotte New York Palace Hotel is “excited” about the possibility of returning guests. However she says that she doesn’t take chances like other people.
Hotel staff are making every effort to ensure that the supply chain is not interrupted.
“We are preparing for the worst and continuing to maintain our focus on [stock]”Levels up in case of emergency,” says Ms Hubbard.
Towels, soap, and toilet paper are all acceptable.
A hotel requires a constant supply of masks. Because they are mainly from Asia, this is one reason why supplies have been limited in the past.
Mitchell Hochberg is the president of Lightstone, the property company which owns Moxy hotels. He says that supply chain issues are getting worse, not better at the moment, but that it won’t impact visitors’ experiences.
He says, “Guests wouldn’t be able to tell that it was a different shampoo or from an entirely different manufacturer.”
However, there are still some adjustments.
“We instituted self-service check-in… like in an airport,” says Mr Hochberg. “It was very well received, and it seems that this will remain for simplicity.”
Moxy Hotels offer guests the chance to request a less frequent cleaning of their rooms, which is done every 3 days.
He says that breakfast at the moment is a bag with muffins, croissants, and yoghurt, not a hot buffet. This, too, is Covid-safety.
There are upsides to having to work around the problems.
It has been a blessing at Ardesia downtown wine bar.
Mandy Oser has discovered that an order for white wine from Hungary was stuck in Germany. A favourite Irish whiskey brand won’t be available again before Christmas. George Clooney’s Casamigos Tequila will also not be available. She has had to look for alternatives.
Her latest discoveries include an “outstanding”, new brand of artisan tequila, and a Tennessee-based brand bourbon produced by an African American company.
It’s helped us look beyond just ordering what we had ordered one year ago.
Covid showed us that you don’t know what lies around the corner. “We’re trying not to lose that.”
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