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New York City is usually a circus come December as tourists fill high-priced hotels there to gawk at the Bergdorf Goodman windows, chuckle at The Book of Mormon, and gorge themselves at the Nuts for Nuts street-vendor carts.

But the greatest show on earth took a hiatus last year, and the hotel industry was desperate to see if 2021 would return occupancy rates to pre-pandemic levels. But as the holiday season arrives this week, it looks like the big top isn't coming to town.


Occupancy rates at real estate company's CBRE Group's hotel division are predicted to hit 56% in the fourth quarter this year, only a slight improvement from the previous three months.

One factor holding back a holiday boom is international tourists, who tend to stay longer and spend more than Americans. But International flight bookings for November and December were down 45% and 33% from 2019 as COVID-induced conditions continue their holding pattern:

  • Vaccination, testing, and quarantine restrictions both on the US and international ends of the journey are discouraging tourists — Chinese travelers, who are among the biggest spenders on tourism, are currently required to quarantine in hotels at their own expense for three weeks upon their return home.
  • Some people are splurging on long-delayed holidays but they're the minority — only a third of Americans are likely to travel this Christmas, and less than a quarter plan to stay in a hotel, according to a poll conducted by the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

"We're going to get some visitation over the holidays but I don't think this is a cure-all in any way," Rachael Rothman, head of hotels research and data analytics at CBRE, told The Wall Street Journal.

Time Travel: It appears there's no cure-all except time. While this spring looks promising based on ticket and tour reservations, city officials are placing their bets on 2024 as the year tourism rates will return to normal.