The recent pandemic has taken a physical, emotional, and financial toll on people across North America and the world. In addition, the negative impacts of COVID-19 have had a drastic negative effect on economies too. Many businesses have closed down or substantially reduced their workforces; downtown cores of cities have felt the major brunt. But now, with most restrictions lifted across North America, life is seemingly getting back to normal. How are these downtown cores dealing with the aftermath?
Major downtown city businesses across North America are fed by those who work in the city and those visiting, foot traffic being a crucial part of sales. As the COVID-19 dilemma grew, many downtown businesses saw considerable customer foot traffic drops. Employees were asked to self-isolate and work from home, and tourists all but evaporated. The Hospitality sector particularly suffered, with restaurants, bars, cafes, and hotels unable to continue operating. Many of these businesses closed for good, and those who survived had to slash their workforce numbers.
As life returns to normalcy, many city downtown cores are experiencing a sudden boom in customer foot traffic. Employees are no longer working from home and beginning to return to their offices. There is also a massive surge in visiting tourists, many of whom have had their holiday plans put on hold for the last two years and are now let loose. An example of the latter is in Brooklyn, NY, which is experiencing an increase in domestic tourism compared to pre-Pandemic 2019; Placer.ai has reported that tourism levels increased in June 2022 by 5%, compared to the same month in 2019.
Of course, this all sounds excellent news; people are finally out travelling, working, and living their lives as they once did. Cities across Canada are seeing surges in foot traffic in downtown areas, with Toronto seeing an increase of 83%. This is mainly because downtown is the home to an abundance of exciting bars, restaurants, cafes, and hotels. People, it appears, want to be out enjoying themselves, socializing again. The Gensler City Pulse Survey from 2021 reports that post-pandemic, top of the list of many returning downtown workers is to get out and socialize again in restaurants and bars.
With socializing being a top priority for many people working and visiting downtown, retail stores have faced new challenges. The recruitment of staff, as many were laid off during the pandemic, and how to get customers through their doors and enhance customer experience. To tackle the latter, some retailers have found an innovative solution by offering food and alcohol inside their premises and the products they sell. This exciting concept seems to be working well with customers and helping, of course, to increase sales.
The re-emergence of COVID-19 seems to be happening impossibly quickly, reflecting where we all were a year ago. There are teething problems, of course, but that was to be expected. How will downtown Toronto fare as life returns to normal in the coming year? Toronto’s Mayor, John Tory, is optimistic about answering this question. He acknowledges that downtown restaurants, bars, and hotels are having problems with staff shortages, but a strong recovery is already being experienced.78
As the economy turns and interest rates climb, employers are hopeful that entry-level employees will start seeking employment soon. If you have questions about current market trends, don’t hesitate to reach out to the professionals at CHI Real Estate Group