NYCVB reports arrivals record in '97

NEW YORK -- More tourists visited this city last year than ever before, thanks in part to the Big Apple's vastly improved image, its upgraded tourism infrastructure and a robust national economy, according to the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The bureau said that more than 33 million tourists visited the city's five boroughs in 1997, 3.6 million more than in 1996, the previous record year for tourism arrivals. These visitors spent nearly $14 billion on hotels, restaurants, sightseeing and attractions--about $600 million more than in 1996--generating $710 million in taxes and supporting more than 131,000 permanent jobs, the CVB said.

The statistics reflect the city's improved image as a safer, cleaner and more exciting place to visit, supported by a strong national economy and increases in foreign visitors, said bureau president Fran Reiter, who made the announcement at a press conference attended by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

The mayor recalled that as recently as the early '90s the city had a reputation as an unsafe and unfriendly place to visit. "I remember being in London in 1990 and meeting people there who were afraid to come to New York," he said. "Travel agents there were giving people tips to get them to come [to New York], and one of the tips was not to make eye contact with New Yorkers."

New York ranked third--up from fifth in 1996--among the top 10 U.S. destinations for domestic travel, behind Orlando, Fla., and Las Vegas. In 1997, the city welcomed 27 million tourists from within the U.S., up from 23.4 million in 1996, the bureau said. Business travelers accounted for 10.4 million arrivals, up 28%. The city also retained its position as the top U.S. destination for overseas travelers.

The bureau said it projects continued growth for 1998, with more than 34 million travelers expected to visit the city and spend $300 million more than last year.

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