NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Despite an economic recession and fears of bedbugs, New York City attracted a record 48.7 million visitors in 2010, making it the biggest tourist destination in the U.S. for the second year in a row.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the number of visitors marked a 6.8 percent increase over the 45.6 million people who visited in 2009, which was the first year since 1990 that the Big Apple attracted the most tourists, surpassing Orlando, Florida.
According to Bloomberg, the city should meet his administration's goal - set in 2007 - to attract 50 million visitors annually by 2012.
"This past year was New York City's most successful year for tourism ever, and we're well on our way to achieving our goal of attracting 50 million visitors a year," he said.
Of 2010's visitors, 39 million were American and 9.7 million from abroad. Both numbers broke previous records.
Room rates rose to an average of $330 last year, an 8.9 percent increase over 2009. Overall, tourists spent $31 billion.
The hospitality industry added 6,600 jobs in 2010. July was particularly notable, with 323,200 people working in hospitality jobs across all industry sub-sectors.
A record 25.7 million hotel room nights were sold in 2010, two million room nights more than the year before.
George Fertitta, the CEO of NYC&Company, said that although New York is still visited by fewer people than Paris and London, they lag behind New York in occupancy rates and hotel rates.
"That makes a visit to New York more valuable than it would be in Paris and London," he said.
New York City's Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, Robert Steel, attributed the local tourism industry's strong performance to enhanced efforts to market the city both domestically and abroad.
NYC&Company operates 18 offices to market city tourism in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.
Reporting by Bernd Debusmann Jr., editing by Patricia Reaney