Business leaders warn that New York City’s summer tourism season could become a hot mess if asylum seekers take over too many hotel rooms.
“I’m worried about summer tourism. We’re 30 to 45 days out from summer tourism internationally,” said Queens Chamber of Commerce president Tom Grech.
“My concern is that asylum seekers will take up space normally reserved for tourists. I’m concerned we’re going to lose tourists this summer. This is ridiculous.”
Even hotels in Queens near Kennedy and LaGuardia airports that typically serve tourists are sheltering migrants — at least temporarily.
Earlier Wednesday, Mayor Eric Adams reported that hotels contracted by the city to house migrants are filling up.
“Instead of money coming from people who are visiting us and spending on our tourism … instead of using those hotels, we’re using those (contracted) hotels,” he said.
The Adams administration in January awarded a $250 million contract to the Hotel Association of New York City to have some of its venues house migrants. So some of its hotels are serving tourists and others are housing asylum seekers.
“The hotel industry is focused on its primary mission: Serving those who visit New York City for business and to enjoy our city,” said Hotel Association president Vijay Dandapani.
“We are confident that—even as we help the city navigate this challenge—we will continue to serve visitors to New York and support the local economy as a critical industry.”
Some of the premier hotels in midtown that serve high end tourists said they have not been affected by the surge in migrants.
A manager at the Hilton Midtown said bookings there are solid and typical.
Preliminary figures from city Comptroller Brad Lander’s sad hotel bookings are strong and there’s no reason to panic, at least not yet.
In a February newsletter, the comptroller said city hotels were booking about 3 million rooms per month, closing in on the pre-pandemic monthly figure of 3.4 million rooms per month and rose after migrants began arriving last spring.
Hotel tax collections through April more than doubled tax receipts in 2022 — $475 million vs. $200 million, Lander said.
The comptroller’s office said there are 130,000 hotel rooms in NYC and 41,500 asylum seekers currently in care. Some of them are in hotels that were already unused or closed — such as the Roosevelt hotel and the Holiday Inn in bankruptcy, suggesting there’s still plenty of available hotel rooms.
Meanwhile, a representative from the trade group for restaurant and nightlife venues complained that they can’t hire migrants to fill vacant jobs and help them become self-sufficient and contribute to the economy because of the six month waiting period required by the federal government.
“It’s absurd the federal government still hasn’t expedited work authorization so migrants can make money to support themselves and their families by getting jobs at restaurants that need workers, which they’ll spend at local businesses and help the economy,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance.
Grechen, the Queens Chamber of Commerce president, said it’s about time that President Biden and Congress step up to the plate.
The federal government is not being helpful. This problem is on the doorstep of President Biden. It’s his responsibility,” Grechen said.
As of May 14, nearly 41,000 migrants were staying at the 150 emergency sites scattered across the Big Apple, according to the latest figures released by City Hall.
More than 65,000 asylum seekers have filtered through the system since last spring.
About 4,200 migrants arrived in the Big Apple last week and another 15 buses are slated for this weekend.
With shelter and space in the city dwindling, Adams has ordered that migrants be sent to hotels in the Hudson Valley, to city school gyms and is eying whatever private office space is available.
He’s even looking at sheltering them in the Rikers Island jail complex as a last resort.