New York says tourism decline not as bad as expected

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In 2009, New York welcomed 45.25 million tourists, a 3.9% drop from 2008, but better than the 10% decline expected, according to city officials.

"Last year, while tourism declined significantly in cities across the country, we fared far better than most," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a press conference today in Brooklyn.

Bloomberg added, "For the first time in 20 years, we were the most popular tourism destination in the country, surpassing Orlando."

Orlando doesn’t expect to have its official 2009 tourism numbers until May, according to a source from the Orlando Convention & Visitors Bureau research department. In 2008, New York came in second behind Orlando for total number of tourists.

Of the more than 45 million tourists who visited New York in 2009, 8.6 million were international visitors, according to the city.

Bloomberg said employment in the leisure and hospitality sector fully rebounded at the end of 2009, inching above pre-recession levels.

Approximately 311,000 people were employed in the leisure and hospitality industry in New York as in November 2009, compared with 307,000 in late 2007.

In 2009, employment at restaurants and bars grew 1.1% from 2008 levels. Employment at hotels grew 2.6%.

"Despite these gains, we know many of our hotels, restaurants, attractions and shops are still struggling as a result of the downturn, but the jobs they have added serve as an important indication that our efforts are paying off and that 2010 promises to be a year of growth," said Bloomberg.

For 2010, New York expects a 3.2% increase in visitors, to 46.7 million. The city "still holds onto an ambitious goal of attracting 50 million visitors annually by 2012," said George Fertitta, CEO of NYC & Company, New York's tourism and marketing arm.

Tourists who visited New York last year spent approximately $28 billion during their stay in the city. International visitors traditionally spend nearly five times as much as their domestic counterparts, according to city officials.

New York said 23.6 million room nights were sold in 2009, 1.3% more than in 2008. The city’s hotel inventory increased 6% to 81,500 hotel rooms in 2009. Hotel tax revenue generated roughly $315 million.

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