Boston tourism venues like the New England Aquarium, museums and the iconic duck boat tours will begin reopening next week, but Mayor Marty Walsh warned that the city’s tourism industry “is in for a bit more of a ride here,” because tourists are still not comfortable traveling.
“Next week, the duck boats and a lot of the tourism comes back,” Walsh said at a press conference Tuesday, but he warned, “the venues come back, doesn’t necessarily mean the tourists come back.”
Walsh said the flow of visitors to Faneuil Hall outside his office window has begun to pick up, but it is still far less than prior years.
“We are still a little bit away before we see that booming, thriving tourism industry here in the city of Boston,” the mayor said, “especially when you see these other states opening up and the numbers of COVID cases [rising], that is not sending a strong message across the country that cities are open for business right now.”
Tourism is a huge economic driver in the city. The Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau estimated in 2018 that Boston and Cambridge combined generated nearly $2 billion in hotel room sales alone. But through May of this year, traffic through Logan Airport has been down more than 50%, and the airport saw total passengers drop from 3.8 million in May 2019 to just over 200,000 in May 2020.
But Walsh said that the city’s continuing downward trend of COVID-19 cases could ultimately be a selling point for visitors.
“We could be the first city that truly recovers from COVID-19 and people — when they start to travel again — come to Boston because our numbers are so low,” he predicted.