COVID-19 and Tourism in Times Square

COVID-19 and Tourism in Times Square

Times Square is one of the most well known tourist attractions in New York City. Visitors shop for souvenirs, dine at restaurants, and take pictures in front of famous signs. According to our economic activity by city and category dashboard, September foot traffic to city tourist attractions was 56% lower compared to February. We examined foot traffic at Times Square from January 1, 2019 through September 30, 2020 to see how COVID-19 has impacted foot traffic at one of NYC’s most famous tourist attractions.

Comparing Foot Traffic to Times Square Pre- and Post-COVID

Before the coronavirus pandemic, foot traffic to Times Square remained consistent until late March. Traffic peaked around the weeks of New Year’s, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Valentine’s Day. Once the New York government closed non-essential businesses on March 20, foot traffic to Times Square decreased significantly. By summer, foot traffic started to gradually increase as tourists began to venture out again.

Overall, foot traffic to Times Square is 92% lower post-COVID. Visitors also aren’t going to Times Square on the weekends like they used to before the pandemic. Fridays and Saturdays have the most pronounced decrease in visits. Why could this be the case? Before the pandemic, tourists might have visited NYC for short weekend trips. Once the pandemic hit, many tourists might have put off their plans and contributed to the decrease in visits to Times Square.

Visits to Times Square have changed on weekdays as well. Weekday foot traffic is 91% below pre-pandemic levels. Weekdays might have slightly more traffic due to office workers and tourists passing through Times Square en route to their destinations.

It’ll be some time before foot traffic at tourist attractions in cities returns to pre-pandemic levels, and Times Square is certainly no exception. What can major tourist attractions do to increase visitors again? It depends on what the city’s tourism boards can invest in. Ideally, they will invest in new technology, data-driven marketing, and new advertising strategies to pique the interest of tourists.

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