NEW YORK (AP) ― New York City hosted a record number of visitors in 2010, a sign that the Big Apple’s tourism industry is bouncing back after a decline the previous year when travelers everywhere tightened their budgets amid the recession.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said 48.7 million people visited New York last year, surpassing the city’s 2008 record of 47 million.
The increase shows the city’s travel industry may be back on track after tourism numbers slipped in 2009 for the first time since 2001.
New York saw a 7 percent increase in visitors over 2009, when there were 45.6 million. Officials said 39 million visitors were from the U.S. and 9.7 million were from abroad; both numbers are records.
Tourism is New York City’s fifth-largest industry ― it contributed about $31 billion in direct spending to the economy last year.
Bloomberg also said the industry employed record numbers of New Yorkers, adding 6,600 jobs in the hospitality industry last year. A high of 25.7 million hotel room nights were sold, while Broadway attendance this season was up 3.8 percent over last season.
City officials attribute the growth to several factors, including New York’s increased focus on advertising itself nationally and globally.
The Bloomberg administration has media exchange deals with several other cities, allowing it to market its message as a place to visit, and it has a number of private partnerships with airlines and travel companies that have elevated New York’s profile among domestic travelers.
The mayor also maintains that New York has an edge over other cities with its ever-changing diverse restaurants, theater productions and innovative art exhibits.
“People say `Hey, New York ― things are happening there,’’’
Bloomberg said. “All of this gets mixed together, and you can’t say any one thing is the reason. The totality is the reason.’’
The Big Apple was by far the top U.S. destination for travelers from overseas, with 33 percent of total abroad visitors. Miami and Los Angeles tied for second place, each with 11 percent of the share.
Travel experts said New York is an exception among U.S. cities as far as its quick recovery over the past year.
“If you evaluate New York individually, you would think the lodging industry has gotten back to where it was. But New York is an anomaly,’’ said Scott Berman, hospitality and leisure leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “You’ve got corporate demand and leisure demand from both the U.S. and overseas that are driving the strength in New York.’’
Tourists flocked to New York despite travel scares like the spread of bedbugs in the city and a volcano in Iceland that grounded European air travel for several days.
The 2010 record was even higher than the city’s projection for the year, which had been 47.5 million.
Bloomberg set a goal in 2007 of reaching 50 million visitors by 2012.
The city tabulates its visitor number using data on airport arrrivals, hotel occupancies, U.S. Department of Commerce data on international tourists and other measurements. A visitor is defined as someone who traveled more than 80 kilometers or spends one night in the city, not including commuters; that definition is an industry standard.