NEW YORK CITY (WABC) – As the tourism industry rebounded this holiday season, the hotel association said it had seen a record high in bookings since the pandemic began.

Now, a new record high in positive COVID cases has resulted in thousands of hotel cancellations this week alone due to a surge in Omicron cases.

As of the beginning of this month, hotels in the city saw an occupancy rate of 81%. That is the highest in almost two years and the highest in the country.

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But thousands of canceled bookings followed.

“It’s been a steep, winding road, many critical milestones, and many challenges,” said Chris Heywood of NYC & Company, the city’s tourism branch.

It has been a year-round challenge for the city’s tourism industry.

When visitors returned to events like the US Open and Broadway this summer, something else popped up – the Delta variant.

“With the delta rise, we learned that people are still learning to travel, especially domestically, learning to adapt, to be agile and to be resilient,” Heywood said.

34 million people visited NYC in 2021, roughly half the number compared to the year before the pandemic.

“Recovering half of the total number of visitors to 2019 is actually very positive after everything we’ve been through,” said Heywood.

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International travelers returned this November and the number of international visitors is expected to triple next year.

And the city needs them to start the biggest advertising campaign in history, to get them to visit.

The further people travel, the more money they spend. International tourists make up 20% of the city’s visitors but make up 50% of the spending.

“I hope you will see some growth by spring,” said Heywood.

Tourism levels are not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels before 2024.

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