Mayor Michael Bloomberg proclaimed victory Tuesday in his longstanding effort to attract more visitors — and their money — to New York City, announcing that the city will surpass its goal of 50 million tourists in a year within the next few days.
"That means more guests in our hotels, more shoppers in our stores, larger audiences in our museums and theaters, . more economic growth and — what's really important to the city — more tax revenues and more jobs," Bloomberg said at a Times Square press conference, standing alongside some festively dressed Rockettes and looking out at a small throng of tourists snapping pictures of the event.
The mayor said the city was expecting 50.2 million visitors by the end of the year, reaching a target that he first set in 2006, when the most recent yearly tourist total was under 43 million.
At the time, he said the city would aim to reach the mark by 2015. That deadline was moved up to 2012 a few years later, and on Tuesday he said the city had beat its own schedule by a year.
This year's tally — compiled using data from sources such as hotels and airlines — shows an increase in international visitors of 4 percent, up to 10.1 million, according to NYC & Company, the city's official tourism arm. The number of domestic visitors grew by about 3 percent.
In all, the visitors are expected to spend $32 billion in the city this year — more than is spent by tourists anywhere else in the nation. The industry supports about 320,000 city jobs.
Bloomberg attributed the growth in visitors to quality-of-life investments as well as the marketing efforts of NYC & Company, which has launched international marketing efforts, entered into advertising partnerships with airlines and established offices in cities around the world.
For Tuesday's press conference, officials selected a couple visiting from Lichfield, England, to receive more than $30,000 in prizes to mark the milestone. They were chosen, the mayor said, in the hopes of generating publicity back home.