NEW YORK CITY— More than 50 million visitors head to New York, New York, every year. And while they might be drawn to the glitz, glamour and sheer spectacle, they return the favor by spending more than $55 billion in the city.
But Hurricane Sandy, and its aftermath, threatened to upset tourists' travel plans.
"We planned it a long time ago and I thought we’re not gonna come," says one tourist. "But as days went by, we didn’t want to give it up."
Most Broadway theatergoers come from out of town. Annual ticket sales amount to $1 billion.
When stages were dark for three days because of Sandy - the longest closure on record - the industry lost $8 million in ticket sales alone.
Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, says when Broadway is dark, New York is dark. For her, getting the curtain to rise is a calling.
"I think it's because 'the show must go on' isn’t just a catchy phrase," she says. "It is at the core and the heart of everyone that works on Broadway. Whether it’s the usher, the actor, the stagehand, the producer, everyone feels the most incredible responsibility to be up and on with the lights on."
Nancy Plaeger, president of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, says tourists were frustrated at first.
"Nothing was open, they couldn’t shop, they couldn’t visit the sites," Plaeger says. "So many of them just stayed in their hotel rooms and went to eat at the local restaurants. They couldn’t even walk in the parks that were closed."
The Circle Line cruise around Manhattan is a must for many tourists. Its fleet was kept safe during the storm, says spokesman Jason Hackett, but the piers were flooded.
"We had water almost two and a half meters on top of the pier, wiped out electrical systems, computer systems," he says, "and took us several days to put that all together and get the place ship-shape for all our guests."
On the first day back, 1,200 visitors came aboard to see the city’s famous sites.
"Being in New York is a dream and we had a slight nightmare. But we’re back on our feet," says Gloria, a tourist from Chile. "We know America is fantastic for everything, and we are bouncing back. New York is the best."
In areas that most tourists don't see, thousands of New Yorkers are still suffering from the effects of Sandy. Some remain without power and many find themselves homeless as the winter sets in.
Yet the city continues humming along. As one writer said of New York, “You just can’t keep something down that is bound to rise.”