U.S. News

NYC tourism down in 2009 but growth seen in 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Tourist visits to New York City fell 3.9 percent in 2009 but the city’s tourism suffered less from the recession than other U.S. cities’, becoming the most popular destination and forecasting a 3.2 percent rise for 2010.

Pedestrians walk on a closed section of Broadway in New York City, May 24, 2009. REUTERS/Michael Nagle

The number of visitors fell to 45.25 million, and tourists spent $28 billion in New York, down $2 billion from the previous year, but the decline was less than the projected 10 percent and New York overtook Orlando, Florida, as the leading U.S. destination, officials said on Monday.

New York regained the top spot for the first time in 20 years. Orlando is home to the Disney World amusement park.

Moreover, New York remained the most popular destination for international visitors with 8.6 million in 2009 -- twice as many as the nearest competitor, Los Angeles.

International visitors spend nearly five times as much as their domestic counterparts, and every dollar of direct tourist spending translates into a total of $1.50 in economic activity, the city said.

The year-on-year fall in the number of visitors in 2009 marked the first decline since 2001, when travelers stayed away following the September 11 attacks that year.

New York is projecting 46.7 million visitors to the city in 2010, which would put it on track toward reaching its goal of 50 million visitors by 2012.

Jobs in restaurants and bars grew 1.1 percent over 2008 while hotel employment grew 2.6 percent.

The last three months of 2009 saw a rise in arrivals from trains and airports, leading officials to predict a return to growth.

“During a softening of the market, New York experiences less of a dip than elsewhere” and absorbs travelers that may previously have gone abroad, said Tim Tomkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, a business group.

Reporting by Basil Katz; editing by Daniel Trotta and Cynthia Osterman