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Syracuse airport holiday traffic down significantly

Payne Horning

Syracuse's Hancock International Airport usually enjoys a bump in traffic during the holiday season, but travel restrictions and recommendations from government officials not to travel has taken a slice out of that business.

"It’s nowhere near where we were last year at this time," said Hancock Executive Director Jason Terreri. "We’re sitting roughly about 70% off where we were in 2019."

For example, Terreri said in a typical day in 2019 the week of Thanksgiving, the airport had anywhere between 4,500-5,000 passengers departing. The week of Christmas, the average was 1,400. This is despite the addition of a litany of safety enhancements to Hancock this year - everything from UVC lighting to hospital-grade misting machines.

The decline has ramifications for the region's economy. Visit Syracuse President Danny Liedka said although the holidays are not the peak tourism season for central New York, this latest drop in traffic finished what was already an exceptionally difficult year for the restaurants and hotels that usually cater to that holiday crowd.

"The taverns and the restaurants and some of the other attractions, this is their time of year where they make the most hay so to speak and when you take that away - almost every other day you're seeing another one closing, whether it's permanent or for some sort of hiatus," Liedka said. "It’s really troubling to see that trend continue."

Liedka said on average roughly 65% of the hotel rooms in the region were occupied throughout 2019. In 2020, it fell to around 30%. That's in line with central New York's overall local tourism picture for the year, which Liedka said will only reach about a third of the usual $900 million it produces. 

But Terreri said while passenger traffic may be down, Hancock is enjoying a 30% increase in cargo shipping through the airport.

"On the flip side, you still are seeing growth in the economy of things being shipped out," Terreri said. "That’s up tremendously and that’s a good sign, so there’s still an economic benefit coming through the airport."

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.