New York has reopened for business and Times Square is playing a critical part in the city's recovery. The coronavirus pandemic kept Broadway theaters, office buildings and restaurants closed for almost 18 months, leaving the bustling neighborhood void of the millions of tourists and workers that it usually attracts each day.
Times Square may only represent 0.1% of the land area in New York City, but it accounts for 7% of New York City’s workforce and 15% of its economic output, the equivalent of the economic output of Nashville, according to the area's business development group, Times Square Alliance.
“We have said from the beginning that the city's not going to recover until Times Square recovers and Times Square has been recovering,” Tom Harris, president of the Times Square Alliance, told Yahoo Finance Live. “We've seen our pedestrian counts soar over the last couple of months.”
Back in March, Times Square was averaging just 100,000 visitors a day, Mr. Harris said, but those numbers have quickly increased, climbing to an average of 185,000 visitors in June. While that’s a step in the right direction, it’s still only about half of what the area averaged before the pandemic, but it’s enough to prompt businesses in Times Square to reopen their doors.
“Eighty-seven percent of our businesses were closed at the height of the pandemic. Now, over 60% of them are open. We really have seen a resurgence,” Harris added. “But we're not going to be back fully until Broadway is back. ‘Springsteen on Broadway’ is back, and we'll start to see more shows pick up in September.”
Broadway is set to reopen on Sept. 14 with "Hamilton," "The Lion King," "Wicked" and "Chicago" among the first shows scheduled to reopen. And their return will certainly be a welcome event, as Broadway is a significant economic driver of New York City. Before the pandemic, Broadway grossed $1.83 billion in the 2018-2019 season, while attendance reached a record 14.77 million, according to The Broadway League.
But Harris said New York City isn’t waiting for the return of Broadway to lure tourists back. The city launched a $30 million tourism marketing campaign in an effort to attract visitors this summer.
“There's a lot to do even without Broadway. We have a lot of small-scale programming,” Harris said. “There are a lot of businesses that have live performances that you can see and enjoy. This is the place to see and be seen in New York City… We’ve had 23 new businesses open in Times Square during the pandemic, so that shows the resilience of Times Square, and is indicative that the best is yet to come.”