NYC: Good visitor news tempers the bad

NEW YORK -- Despite the tourism downturn following Sept. 11, New York welcomed slightly more domestic visitors in 2001 than in 2000, although spending was down by almost $1 billion, according to NYC & Co., the city's convention and visitors bureau.

However, the bureau cautioned that when 2001 international arrival figures are made available later this fall, total visitor numbers will reflect the full impact of the Sept. 11 attacks.

That's because international tourists, while accounting for just 18% of total visitors, generate 42% of visitor spending.

"One year after Sept. 11, the good news is that visitors are continuing to return to New York City," according to NYC & Co. president Cristyne Nicholas.

"The downside is that their visits are shorter and they are spending less money while here."

In 2001, the city welcomed 29.5 million domestic visitors, up 0.3% from 2000.

Spending was down 10%, from $9.7 billion in 2000 to $8.8 billion in 2001.

The bureau said the 4.7% increase in domestic travelers from Jan. 1 to Sept. 10 was great enough to offset the 7.5% drop in visitors following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.

Domestic business travel last year dropped 1.2%, to 8.3 million from 8.4 million, but after Sept. 11, business travel plummeted 21.9% compared with 2000.

The bureau said hotel occupancy has rebounded within one or two percentage points of last year, but the average room rate is down by as much as 15% compared with last year.

Broadway also has rebounded.

Although ticket sales were down by 33% last September, they were up 1% in July.

Meanwhile, the composition of Broadway audiences has shifted away from visitors toward city and suburban residents, who represented 39% of audiences in 2000 but make up 52% of performance attendees now.

"New York City's tourism industry has made tremendous strides in recovering from the unprecedented events of last fall, which is a testament to the resiliency of our travel and tourism industry," said NYC & Co. chairman Jonathan Tisch.

"The visitor trends we are seeing today are less a reflection of the impact of Sept. 11 and more a result of the mixed economic outlook here in the U.S. as well as in many of our international feeder markets," he said.

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