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  1. GANYC Will Keep Fighting For NYC's Tourism Recovery

    By now, many in the NYC tourism sector have seen this NY Times article making the rounds:
    "Tourism, Engine for N.Y.C. Economy, May Not Fully Recover Until 2025"

    This article is causing a lot of panic in the NYC tourism world, and only time will tell whether that it is warranted or not. The news took the joy for many out of a week that also saw several promising vaccine candidates releasing encouraging numbers.

    To clarify, the word "fully" in the headline carries a lot of weight, and was ignored by some. The officials interviewed by the Times speculate that it will take years for tourism to get back to its full pre-pandemic levels, which was 67+ million visitors in 2019 and an industry that was generating $70 billion in economic activity (see the NYC & Co report/trend outlook that led to this article). And yes, it will most likely take a few years to get back to those highs. But the article also takes a worse-case scenario and presents it as the most likely. If the city and tourism officials work together, that recovery can, and will, begin later next year.

    We went from tens of millions of visitors to almost none between the end of last year and the beginning of this past Spring. The recovery will not go back up from 0 to 60 quite so rapidly. But it will also not take 4 years for tourists to return.

    New York remains one of the most desirable travel destinations on the planet. Even during a pandemic, with health & safety guidelines in place across the state, the city has received visitors. Given the number of people I kept seeing all over Manhattan this past month visiting from outside the state (and some seemingly from outside the country?), it's clear the demand has not disappeared one bit.

    Next year we fully understand will be a year largely of transition and recovery (see the most recent GANYC Virgil issue for my thoughts on the vaccine timeline and the road back to "normal"). But once it is deemed safe to truly travel again, and when borders reopen, visitors will begin to flock here. The city should begin thinking ahead to this now. GANYC sure is.

    GANYC has hundreds of professional guides in its membership, and we will continue to keep preparing, and adapting, for the recovery.

    GANYC continues to promote its Health & Safety Guidelines for touring, and will continue to adapt all around as the situation here in New York changes over these next painful months.

    In the meantime, of course, we will continue our focus through the Spring on local area travelers and explorers through our Tour Your Own City initiative. On the tours I have given these past few months, I have heard from many locals have soul-refreshing it was to get out and explore, and how much they regret not exploring the hidden gems of their own city sooner. It reminded me, in fact, of why I wanted to become a guide in the first place... to enable those experiences. I believe the Tour Your Own City model will therefore remain viable moving forward, and GANYC will continue to showcase the fun & diverse roster of offerings our guides have created.

    We urge all city and tourism officials to contact GANYC about coordinating efforts for next year. GANYC intends to lead on this recovery, and we are happy to work with anyone else who is too.

  2. GANYC Guides Make News!

    We love when GANYC members are spotlighted in the media, and here are some recent examples:

    1. The Red Hook Star-Revue has just published an article in their November 2020 issue, about our Tour Your Own City site/initiative, and how NYC guides are your best tool to uncovering the hidden gems of New York City. The author attended a tour by member Jeremy Wilcox, and also spoke with member Maggie Browne, and VP Michael Morgenthal about their unique tours. In addition the link before, but here are scans from the physical paper:







    2. Kevin Fitzpatrick has had several articles written about him lately! Not shocking for a member who is himself an award-winning author.

    Kevin is also the founder of the Dorothy Parker Society, dedicated to the life and legacy of the famous American poet, writer, critic, and satirist. This past August, he was selected by Parker's family to represent them as, after years of trying, he brought back Parker's cremated remains to NYC from Baltimore. He then helped bury Parker's remains next to her parents in the Bronx's Woodlawn Cemetery. This saga was covered by the New Yorker magazine she helped found. Here is that article:
    "The Improbable Journey of Dorothy Parker’s Ashes"

    (he was also interviewed about this by WFUV)

    Kevin was also just featured in the NY Daily News for the tours he offers around Veterans Day to honor those buried in New York who served their country in the armed forces. This year, he is doing the tours inside historic Woodlawn Cemetery. Kevin is the author of, among other history books, 'World War I New York: A Guide to the City's Enduring Ties to the Great War'. The article can be read here:
    "Visiting heroes: A Veteran’s Day walking tour through Woodlawn Cemetery"


    3. Dave Gardner publishes our quarterly printed newsletter, Guidelines. But he is also the NYC guiding world's foremost expert on all things Titanic. In the November/December 2020 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, they cover the Titanic buffs who follow the history, and even collect memorabilia and artifacts. The article speaks to Dave about his relationship with the Titanic's history and legacy, and the tours he does about it. You can read it here:
    "Titanic Fanatics"


    4. Jane Marx is featured in an article in the latest issue of Fine Art Connoisseur. You can see the article below, but there is a transcript here.


     

  3. Tour Your Own City Wins Tenacity in Travel 2020 Award!

    Groups Today, the community for group travel professionals, has published its Readers’ Choice Awards for Tenacity in Travel 2020. GANYC is proud to announce that we are among the recipients. Guides Association Vice President Michael Morgenthal was honored for spearheading our Tour Your Own City initiative. We launched this project as part of our ongoing efforts to be at the forefront of the recovery of New York City's tourism industry over this coming year.

    The text reads:
     

    Seeing the Big Apple and Supporting Small Businesses
    Guides Association of New York City


    Since the COVID-19 pandemic halted tourists from coming to New York City and taking tours, Michael Morgenthal, Vice President and Chair of the Industry Relations Committee, Guides Association of New York City, developed a program to allow tour guides to promote the town.

    Through the TourYourOwnCity.com portal, which lists some of the best tours in NYC, New York-area residents could easily find fun and informative tours to take and rediscover their own city.

    By booking tours, groups are able get out and explore the Big Apple while also supporting small New York businesses—the tour operators, tour guides, and all the small businesses they regularly visit on tours—that took a direct hit as a result of COVID-19.

    With travel likely being one of the last sectors of the economy to fully bounce back, Guides Association of New York City knew that area residents taking tours would be a lifeline for the thousands of working tour guides in NYC and the other small businesses they patronize.

     

    Thank you to all who have supported Tour Your Own City, and please let all your friends & family know about it!

  4. Trump to City: Drop Dead

    2020 has certainly been a year of escalations in many ways. In the Spring and early Summer, many publications were filled with a growing genre: the "New York is dead" story, almost always from the perspective of well-to-do Manhattanites who fled to their Summer homes in the Hamptons or Connecticut (most of whom will almost certainly be back). Many New Yorkers countered with great pieces on why they are staying, to live and work and fight in a city that is historically resilient.

    Then today, the attacks on our city went way further when the President and the Department of Justice labeled us (and Seattle & Portland OR) as an "anarchist jurisdiction". At stake in this is not just the $7 billion in federal grants that the city receives each year(*), but the very perception among the American people of their nation's largest city and most-visited city amongst domestic travelers.

    (*New York is amongst a handful of states which send more to the federal government in tax revenue than they receive back in spending)

    This federal funding is crucial and provides needed support for everything from healthcare to transit to policing & counter-terrorism to affordable housing, and much more. Withholding it is an attack on the people of New York and a violation of the implicit promise made when we pay our federal taxes.

    New York has seen many tragedies this year, primarily the COVID-19 pandemic and the devastating loss of life it brought, the ensuing economic fallout, and its effects on families and schools. But while our city and state work to keep bringing that under control, we now face a direct assault on our city by our own federal government, specifically a President who is convinced that terrifying voters is the key to his re-election.

    There were a number of things that factored into this. First, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May by police, protests sprung out in all 50 states, and have continued since. Secondly, NYC did see a noticeable spike beginning in the Spring of violent crimes across the city. Thirdly, there were many stories revolving around the city's growing homeless population exaggerated to frighten people.

    Let's unpack all this.
    First, in the immediate wake of Black Lives Matter protests, there were two consecutive nights (May 31 and June 1) where a mix of criminal gangs and opportunistic anarchists engaged in looting and vandalism while authorities were concentrated around the thousands and thousands of New Yorkers peacefully marching across the city. That tragedy was exploited first by police themselves looking to undermine the BLM movement, and then for months by cable news hosts recycling the same footage (a burned police vehicle, the looted stores) over and over again for similar propaganda purposes. Actively misleading about the dynamics of how this justice movement has played out since late May has been key to not only the efforts to undermine it, but also the effort to undermine American cities by a President who sees himself as only the leader of the areas which voted for him. Secondly, it is true that violent crime is up this year noticeably from the previous year or two (and it is true that every violent death is a tragedy that should have been prevented). But that spike occurs in the context of the fact that 2018 was the safest year on record in NYC history, with 2019 following suit. At the current pace, New York is on track to have crime rates... lower than any year during the Guiliani administration, and lower than all but two years of the Bloomberg administration. The picture being painted by many-- including our former Mayor-- is thoroughly misleading. Finally, it is telling that when the city moved to potentially expel the homeless from one prominent Upper West Side hotel, that residents rallied in solidarity with their homeless neighbors.

    Because of all of this propaganda, millions of Americans have a false perception of New York today as a dangerous den of criminals and anarchists.

    The reality of New York today of course must be seen in the context of a year framed by the most devastating global health & economic crisis in our lifetimes. But it is a city that has already begun a rebound on many fronts. First, on COVID, the state has had positivity rates at just 1% or lower for well over a month now. If this turnaround (and the policies that led to this) had been matched in other states, the country as a whole would be on much better footing right now. Secondly, we are carefully making our way through the phases of reopening. Museums and other cultural attractions are reopening (with new temporary restrictions, of course), the streets and parks of NYC are teeming with people and families happy to be reconnecting with friends and neighbors, and the city is working once again to reinvent itself.

    Over the past several months, not only I have returned to touring (slow, but steady), but I've spent most of my free days traveling around my city.... by foot, subway, and occassionally ferry. I've visited numerous neighborhoods, enjoyed some outdoor dining, and spoken to many New Yorkers. I have seen a real city, not the caricature painted by the President, Justice Department, NY Post, Fox News, police unions, and countless internet trolls. And I see a great city filled with resilient, optimistic people working hard to overcome a tragic year.

    There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done, of course. And all that work will be undermined by efforts to rob the city of the billions of federal funding that it is due. The good people of New York deserve a government committed to sharing their faith in this city, not one working to actively undermine them with threats and propaganda.


    (Scenes from around town in our 'anarchist jurisdiction' at the beginning of Autumn)

  5. NY1 Features GANYC and Tour Your Own City

    GANYC and its new Tour Your Own City initiative and website were featured in a NY1 segment this morning. We thank Spectrum News NY1 and Shannan Ferry for spotlighting our work to help this crucial industry recover.

    Tour Your Own City was launched to help New York area residents fall in love with NYC all over again. With over 100 tours now available, we believe there is something for everyone. By booking a tour, you help small businesses recover, and have fun experiences that most New Yorkers usually take for granted.

    NY1: Guides Association Launches Campaign to 'Tour Your Own City'

  6. Tour Your Own City Launches!

    GANYC is proud to announce that Tour Your Own City launches today! This project has been a labor of love for GANYC leadership for several months. It is GANYC’s latest effort to help lead the recovery of New York City’s $71 billion tourism industry in the wake of COVID-19.

    Tour Your Own City is a portal site and marketing campaign that aims to jumpstart the recovery for this vital industry. The goal of Tour Your Own City is to empower the recovery for tour guides, and to encourage hyperlocal explorations that will benefit communities and small businesses across the city. We will be adding more tours throughout the rest of the Summer, and through the Fall.

    Come explore a part of the city you’ve always wanted to check out, or rediscover a familiar part of the Big Apple in a whole new light. A fun way to support local businesses!

    If you're a New York, come find your tour today!

     

     

  7. Reopening Roundup!

    New York City began the process of reopening back in June, amidst great caution. There have been many changes in the game plan since then, with data based on re-openings in other states showing that mass indoor dining, bars, theaters, etc, risk a COVID resurgence here, and so those remain in limbo here. But the reopening continues, even as we’ve left behind the numbered phases.

    All of these re-openings, of course, aren’t a return to the old normal (that is still likely a year or so away from now), requiring new restrictions on capacity, timed entries, required face coverings, and more.

    Many NYC attractions had reopened in prior weeks, among them: The High Line, Governors Island, the city zoos, botanical gardens, observation decks at the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center, the September 11th Memorial, and others. I had visited several of these attractions since, partly for some staycation fun and also to see first-hand how these new regulations were being implemented and enforced. You can read my experiences and thoughts on a previous Blog entry.

    This past week brought news that museums could now reopen as well. The state-required restrictions for now include a cap of 25% of their standard capacity, timed ticketing, and mask compliance. Here is a rundown of all the institutions that have made reopening announcements since this news, along with the dates they will reopen to the public (some have early preview days for members):

    -Statue of Liberty Museum: August 24
    -Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration: August 24
    -Ripley’s Believe It Or Not: August 26
    -National Lighthouse Museum: August 26
    -Museum of Modern Art (MOMA): August 27
    -Museum of the City of New York: August 27
    -New York Aquarium: August 27
    -Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo & Prospect Park Zoo (indoor exhibitions): August 27
    -American Folk Art Museum: August 28
    -Fotografiska: August 28
    -Madame Tussauds: August 28
    -Metropolitan Museum of Art: August 29
    -Poster House: August 31
    -Whitney Museum of American Art: September 3
    -The Morgan Library & Museum: September 5
    -The Edge at Hudson Yards: September 8
    -American Museum of Natural History: September 9
    -Bronx Museum of the Arts: September 9
    -Morris-Jumel Mansion: September 10
    -The New-York Historical Society: September 11
    -9/11 Memorial Museum: September 12
    -The Met Cloisters: September 12
    -Brooklyn Museum: September 12
    -El Museo del Barrio: September 12
    -Museum of Jewish Heritage: September 13
    -New Museum: September 15
    -Museum of Arts and Design: September 17
    -Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum: October 3

    Museums remaining closed for now include The Tenement Museum (though they are resuming their neighborhood walking tours), The Frick Museum (renovating; scheduled to reopen early 2021), the Museum of the Moving Image, Queens Museum, the Jewish Museum, and the Rubin Museum.

    GANYC will continue to work to stay on top of all this on behalf of its membership, and continue to help work towards a safe and sustainable return to our vital tourism industry over the next year.

  8. NYC Tourist Attractions Reopen. Minus The Tourists.

    New York City began its phases of reopenings in June, amidst a Summer that has seen New York turn around the COVID case numbers more than any other comparable state. Rather than just declare victory and start a reopening frenzy-- a strategy to came back to bite many other states this Summer-- New York has approached this cautiously. While the city is filled with inventive outdoor dining options, indoor dining remains off-limits, as do other indoor activities... bars, museums, shopping malls. In short, outdoor activities are what the reopening strategy has revolved around. Besides restaurants, more parks have reopened, as have the botanical gardens, the zoos, and places like the grounds on Liberty Island. These reopenings follow new normals: masks required, limits on capacity (enforced by timed tickets acquired in advance), social distancing markers, and sometimes temperature checks.

    I recently visited four great NYC attractions to experience first-hand how each is handling our COVID world.

    1. Empire State Building, 86th Floor observation deck:
    The observation decks, it has been observed, could be seen as somewhat of a cheat. The decks themselves are technically an outdoor activity, but anyone who has visited knows that all the security and queueing are all indoors (over several floors), and have museum-like features built in to them. So, yes, you will be moving through the inside of the building. The good news is that, for now, almost no one is visiting these sites. I'd visit sooner rather than later, before that changes.

    As before, you enter for the observatory on 34th St. Before you enter, an employee scans your temperature. Their site states a temperature of lower than 100.4°F is needed for entry. After you are cleared to enter, you proceed the usual way up around to the 2nd floor, and go through security. All employees you encounter inside are wearing masks, many wearing face-shields as well. Before you go all the way up, you proceed through the usual hallways filled with historical images and videos about the building. They even make you stop for the usual green-screen photo (in which I was shockingly encouraged to take my mask off for a better photo!). I'd insist on skipping that part when you visit. Normally, these are busy spaces/queues, but right now, I had it to myself, save for a nearby group getting a private tour from staff. Not sure what it would look/feel, comfort-wise, if they were at their full (under new limitations) capacity, however. But when I went, the emptiness was a comfort (though doubtful a great comfort for them financially). Finally, you get to the elevators. This is all a touchless experience, as the employees have clickers that control each elevator. Elevators are also limited to 4 persons max, with little decals on the floor of each elevator instructing the 4 riders to face one of the corners as they go up. When you are finally at the top, decals on the deck remind you to observe social distancing from other visitors.

    I had the benefit of a largely clear day, and really liked the freedom to enjoy the space with only a handful of other visitors present. If you dislike someone hogging the exact spot(s) you wanted to take photos from, this is an obvious benefit.

    After you leave, the elevator situation is the same as going up... touchless, and maximum of 4 passengers. Due to the low crowds, going both up and down I had my own private elevator. As before, the elevator dumps out back onto the 2nd floor where the corridor takes you right to the gift shop (open for business!). The restrooms by the gift shop were also open. Then, either out into Walgreens, or down the escalator into the main 5th Avenue lobby.

    I would add that, all throughout the experience, hand sanitizer stations were plentiful.

    2. Top of the Rock
    Today, I had the pleasure of being the first paying customer to enter the 70th floor observation deck at 30 Rock since March!

    At opening, there was only a small crowd of maybe around 10 people waiting to be part of this reopening. It was a very similar experience to the Empire State Building. You enter on 50th St, where a temperature check is mandatory before going inside. Then upstairs you go, and through security. Past that, the usual corridors of Rockefeller Center historic photos, infographics, and videos. You can easily skip all this, without any staff trying to take a souvenir photo fortunately. Or, like ESB, with almost no else there, you have also a rare chance to take your time and really explore these displays if you prefer. Elevators here too were limited to a max of 4 passengers, though again I had my own private elevator going up and down. Hand sanitizer stations aplenty (my favorite: the foamy kind!). All staff you encounter are wearing masks, but no face-shields like at ESB. Staff was very friendly and inviting. Once again, decals on the outside decks promote distancing.

    Here too you have the benefit of enjoying the photogenic views without the huge crowds.

    After heading back down, you of course proceed through the gift shop in the concourse to exit (the gift shop upstairs on the deck was closed when I visited).

    3. The High Line
    This is probably the most changed experience of the four I am covering. Timed tickets are required in advance, and may be acquired, free of charge, through the High Line website. Some some-day walk-up tix may be available, but I'd recommend securing yours in advance. Masks are, of course, required. It also now operates one-way (south to north)... with the only entrance point being the southernmost one at Gansevoort Street. Staircases at 14th St, 16th St, 17th St, 20th St, and 23rd St, are all open and staffed, and are designated as exit only. The experience also now ends at 23rd St, at which point all guests must exit. They are currently raising funds to extend the reopening to 30th St... so I assume the current exit point is a staffing issue.

    This was, for me, the most complicated experience of the four in terms of my emotions. Obvious pro: the huge crowds that had increasingly made the High Line a sardine can-like experience at its narrowest points are all gone. Related con: that energy coming from the High Line being such a well-used public space is gone too. Reviews I've read this month indicate that, to most visitors this Summer, that pro far outweights the con.

    Once you are up on the High Line, the experience is mostly the same, minus most of the vendors. The benches were available to use, bathrooms open, gardens green and wild, welcome breezes coming off the Hudson River. Since my last tour up there in February, there was also noticeable development on the Lantern House and several of the other new developments surrounding the park. I took a leisurely stroll up.

    Another con for me on the very hot day I went: Rather than the convenience of ending at Hudson Yards-- where there is: a subway station, bathrooms, food options, etc-- exiting at 23rd St does mean that long walk from 10th Avenue to the nearest subway at 8th Avenue. Again, this may change later this year.

    4. Governors Island
    This is the experience that, to me, felt the least changed. One change: advance, timed tix are required for the ferry, on which they say they are limiting capacity. Tix cost $3 round-trip, though anyone with NYC ID can book for free (that part seemed to be on the honor system). The day I went (a hot, sunny Wednesday), the first ferry must've been at its new capacity, as the crowd lined up on South St to board felt close to a typical Summer weekday crowd. Someone comes through the queue to scan your ticket before boarding begins.

    Again, this was by far the busiest of these four attractions, and thus the one that felt... almost normal, for better or worse? Lots of biking, walking, picnics, journeys up the Hills, journeys down the slides, and general lounging. Governors Island has always been a fantastic Summer daycation spot, and its open harbor location still makes it a draw during this pandemic. It has also always drawn more locals than tourists.

    The big changes were that the NPS spots-- Castle Williams, and Fort Jay-- remained closed, and the non-profits/art groups that usually inhabit the Nolan Park homes were absent.

    Signs indicate that masks are required during your visit, and that was certainly true on the ferry. However, once on the island, the mask compliance was... a very mixed bag. People cycling, picnicing, enjoying a solitary rocking chair on a Nolan Park porch, etc, felt very comfortable removing their masks once settled into their activity. All this activity was outdoors, and fairly distanced, so there is that context to that behavior. Still, a fair warning to those avoiding places with dubious mask compliance. All staff I encountered, however, were wearing masks.

    Conclusion:
    New York's slow reopening is clearly being done with safety in mind at the forefront. I do have to hope, however, that the city will do whatever it takes to save all the institutions, attractions, and businesses that remain closed in order to do the right thing.  I would add that the reports above can only speak to my own comfort level, and everyone's mileage still varies in terms of what type of places and experiences they feel comfortable with at this time. But I hope I have given a better look into what visiting these spaces is like at this time.

    Stay safe, and stay New York Tough!

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GANYC is an association of independent tour guides. Each member is licensed by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. GANYC provides a listing of all member guides to the public. GANYC is not liable, or responsible, for contractual obligations made between clients and tour guides. GANYC stands for Guides Association Of New York City.
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