2002 a record year for Big Apple tourism

New York -- NYC & Co., the city's tourism marketing organization, measured the number of visitors to the Big Apple last year and found that their numbers -- 35.3 million -- increased slightly -- 0.3% -- compared with 2001.

New York, though, set a record for domestic visitors and held onto its position as the No. 1 destination for overseas travelers.

Still, despite commanding 22% of the overall market share for international visitors, about 10% fewer overseas travelers visited the city last year.

The city received nearly 5.1 million international visitors in 2002, a loss of 573,000 from 2001.

Since 2000, the city has experienced a 25% drop in international visitors, YYC & Co. found, which has hurt the city's economy.

Although they represent only 14% of the total visitor market, international travelers generally contribute about 40% of total direct visitor spending.

Last year, tourists spent nearly $21 billion in New York's hotels, museums, restaurants, attractions and shops, down 7% from 2001 and 18% from 2000, a record year that saw visitor spending hit $25 billion.

According to NYC & Co., the statistics reflect several trends: The city saw a record 10.7 million "family travelers" last year, up 4% from 2001; leisure travel was up 3.2% to a record 25.9 million visitors on the strength of the domestic market; business travel is showing signs of a recovery, especially during the last quarter of 2002; and "cultural travel" grew above 2000 levels to 16.9 million, a sharp increase after the precipitous decline at the end of 2001. So-called "cultural visitors" spent about $7.6 billion in 2002.

To contact reporter Jorge Sidron, send e-mail to [email protected].

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