The holiday season promises peak travel cheer in New York, with more visitors on the streets and in stores, but the emergence of the heavily mutated Omicron coronavirus variant threatens to throw a wrench into the tourism industry's recovery.
"They say it's not as bad as they thought it was," said Kevin Norman, visiting from Britain, referring to Omicron. "More worrying is that we have to take more tests to go back to the UK."
"I'm fully vaccinated. So what will be, will be," said another British tourist, Ann Heinz.
Tom Harris, president of the Times Square Alliance which works to improve and promote the famous intersection, has seen pedestrian numbers rise significantly since Nov. 8, to more than 250,000 people a day from 30,000 at the beginning of the pandemic.Harris expects a return to pre-pandemic numbers of 365,000 people sooner than expected.
Travel website Kayak said searches related to international travel to New York have spiked 50% since the COVID-19 travel restrictions for fully vaccinated international visitors were lifted on Nov. 8.