GANYC: COVID-19 Represents Existential Threat
to NYC Tour Guides
Cancelled Tours Have Cost $1 million-plus in Lost Revenue and Numbers Continue to Climb
NEW YORK (Tuesday March 17, 2020) — Professional tour guides and tour directors working in New York City have lost more than $1 million in revenue from cancelled tours since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, the Guides Association of New York City (GANYC) reported. From March 7 through March 16, GANYC has tracked $1,092,258 in lost revenues from cancelled tours. Nearly 1,800 tours have been cancelled, costing tour guides and directors 2,818 days of lost work. GANYC projects that these figures represent only a small percentage of the overall income that will be lost by tour guides and tour directors during the pandemic.
The COVID-19 crisis represents an existential threat to New York’s professional tour guides, many of whom work primarily as freelance independent contractors. GANYC is calling on officials from the New York City, Tri-State (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) and Federal governments, as well as tourism-industry organizations such as NYC and Co. and the U.S. Travel Association, to include freelance and contract workers such as tour guides in any aid packages that may be offered, including allowing contractors to receive Unemployment Insurance benefits.
GANYC forecasts that the impact on tour guides will be far worse than these numbers indicate. With travel grinding to a halt and locals being encouraged to stay home as much as possible, future tours that would have been booked for the rest of the 2020 are not even being considered, reflecting potential losses of tens of millions of dollars.
Most of the recent cancellations were for tours in March and April 2020, the beginning of the traditionally busy season for tour guides. GANYC reports that most tour guides have seen their income drop as much 90% for March 2020 when compared to March 2019, and the numbers are expected to get even worse. In addition, major tour operators such as BigBus, GrayLine, New York Water Taxi and Circle Line have closed and laid off their entire roster of tour guides.
Simply put, COVID-19 threatens to wipe out many professional tour guides unless government entities step up to help.
“In the 21st Century, the tour guiding industry survived the aftermath of 9-11, Hurricane Sandy, and the Great Recession, but COVID-19 represents an existential threat to tour guides unlike anything we have ever seen,” stated GANYC President Emma Guest-Consales. “Tour guides are often the forgotten part of the tourism industry in New York, but we are the face of tourism to the public. We frequently constitute the first and most vital point of contact for visitors, steering them literally and figuratively through the streets of New York as they explore everything our city has to offer. Tour guides drive traffic to local businesses such as boutiques, bars and restaurants, and bring guests to hidden treasures throughout the five boroughs. GANYC urges our government officials and those who represent the tourism industry as a whole to help tour guides in any way possible.”
According to NYC & Co., tourism jobs comprised the 7th largest industry in the city in 2018, the last year for which statistics were available.
GANYC will continue to monitor cancelled tours and lost revenue as the COVID 19 crisis continues, and is working to develop plans to get the tour industry up and running as quickly as possible once the crisis abates.