SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — New York’s pandemic state of emergency officially expired today after more than 16 months. As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, people are eager to travel. The Central New York tourism industry was hit hard during the pandemic.
Visit Syracuse is the official tourism agency for Onondaga County. According to Danny Liedka, the president of Visit Syracuse, 90 percent of hotel workers were out of a job in the county due to the pandemic.
“We’re funded through the county bed tax. So when people aren’t staying at hotels, our funding goes down,” Liedka said. “So we had to let go of almost half of our staff. Our funding was completely compromised. So we had to really make do with nothing.”
“In Syracuse and nationwide, it was probably the biggest, most affected segment of anything, and I think it flies under the radar,” Liedka said. “But tourism was destroyed.”
According to Liedka, at the peak of COVID, hotels that normally saw an occupancy rate of 65 percent were only 14 percent full. Occupancy is rebounding and currently hotels are about 41 percent full in the Syracuse area.
Some families are traveling now. Larry Tape, a Philadelphia resident, brought his children to visit his hometown of Cicero.
“I came out here so my kids could spend time with their cousins and their family. During the pandemic they didn’t get to spend a lot of time with them,” Tape said. “Now that the restrictions are lifted, or somewhat lifted, I would like for them to spend time with their family.”
Travelers and people who work in the tourism industry are all hoping for the same thing.
“Demand for, certainly in the Syracuse area, is dramatically lower than it is in normal time periods,” Kevin Connolly, Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel general manager said. “I am optimistic to return to that.”
“I just hope that everything goes back to normal sooner than later,” Tape said.