Affordability is Key, Also Former Residents Are Visiting
Brooklyn’s population hasn’t reached pre-COVID levels as fast as Manhattan, but as far as the number of visits by US tourists are concerned, Brooklyn is leaving Manhattan far behind.
At least, that’s the word from Place.ai (Placer Lab), a California-based analytics firm that’s described as “providing location analytics and footfall data for businesses in commercial real estate, retail, hospitality and municipalities.”
Placer, analyzing difference in retail and domestic foot traffic to the two boroughs, found that “while Manhattan is struggling to maintain its pre-pandemic levels of domestic tourism, Brooklyn has resulted in year-over-year domestic tourism growth every month this year.
Domestic, or non-foreign, travel to Manhattan, according to the online report “Manhattan and Brooklyn’s Pandemic Recovery,” has gone up and down during the past few months — up in February, down in March, slightly up in April, then down again in both May and June.
In the meantime, says the report, “domestic tourism to Brooklyn skyrocketed between January 2022 and May 2022, with double-digit increases in foot traffic every month [relative to 2019].” Growth in visits to Brooklyn did slow down in 2022, but it was still 5 percent higher than in June 2019.
One of the reasons, as one might suspect, is Brooklyn’s affordability. However, the firm says, another factor could be the fact that after the long lull in travel caused by COVID, former residents are returning to visit friends, shop and visit restaurants.
In addition, the number of hotels in the borough has increased dramatically. In the late 1990s, when the New York Marriott opened at the Brooklyn Bridge, it was heralded as a major event. Now, there are scores of hotels, in Downtown Brooklyn, Williamsburg, Sunset Park and elsewhere.
Retail foot traffic in Brooklyn, although it still has a way to go, has also grown faster than that in Manhattan since the pandemic. In June 2022, for example, retail foot traffic in Brooklyn was 17 percent below June 2019, while in Manhattan it was a full 27 percent below 2019.
As for population growth, Manhattan is leading — “While Manhattan’s population has essentially returned to pre-pandemic levels, Brooklyn still has fewer residents than it did in 2019,” the report says. “Many of those who left the borough during the first two years of COVID have yet to return.”
The firm has no clear answer as to why this is so, but it did give the interesting fact that most of the people who moved away from Brooklyn moved nearby — Queens was the most common destination, with Manhattan being second.
This belies the idea, frequently discussed at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, that Brooklynites who had the means to do so were leaving en masse for the wide-open spaces of Upstate New York, the Hamptons, Pennsylvania and beyond.