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New York City’s Wobbly Reopen Mirrors Travel Industry

The Big Apple celebrated Phase I of recovery this week, but the city is nowhere near ready for prime time

New York City has moved into Phase I of reopening, but – like the travel industry worldwide – the city’s return is still a long way off.

The MTA subway and bus system has returned to regularly scheduled service, although the trains remain shuttered from 1 AM to 5 AM every morning for deep cleaning. Bus service is still effectively free as customers must board from the back of the bus.

Phase I is a nebulous term for New Yorkers who still see the City That Never Sleeps as continuing its long COVID-19 slumber.

In-dining restaurants and shops are still closed. Streets are still empty. The city’s beaches are not open for swimming or sunbathing. City hotels are still closed to all guests but first responders and displaced COVID-19 quarantined individuals, although some have posted hopeful dates in June and July for re-opening.

Phase I recovery means construction workers and some office workers may go back to the job but the public face of the city remains in stasis, a frustrating “victory” that is heralded by politicos on press conferences but gives locals and potential travelers little to celebrate.

The confusion and frustration of NYC’s recovery process closely mirrors releases and news stories on travel recovery as a whole.

Travelers are being told that “Europe is opening up” only to find out that “opening” means only to fellow Europeans. Destinations like Hawaii still have 2-week quarantine regulations which mean that if you travel to Hawaii you need to pay for and organize 2 weeks of quarantine inside of your hotel room before you venture forth.  

Some destinations are requiring proof of COVID-19 absence on arrival (you can take a test at the airport in Austria but you’ll pay over $200 for it and you’ll have to wait for results).

Recently Britain announced reopening, again only to specify a 2-week quarantine period. Interestingly, you may take public transportation like trains and the tube to your quarantine location.

While the world waits for COVID-19 closure in the form of a vaccine, travelers eager to plan for escape from lockdown will need to wait for mid-summer or longer to get a clearer picture of where they can go, what the regulations will be once they get there and perhaps most importantly, how much it will cost.

Tellingly, the much-anticipated New York Times Travel Show where countries around the world showcase their wares to travelers and the media has decided to cancel its January 2021 dates, pointing to 2022 as its now hoped for re-open.

In the meantime, both the streets of NYC and travelers’ ticket portfolios remain empty, at least for now.