Christine Hiller, left, her sister Lisa Del Rio, center, both from New Jersey, and Victoria Goldsmith, 12, from Texas, right, take part in the New Year's Eve festivities in New York's Times Square Friday Dec. 31, 2010. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)
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 in tourists 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.
"In many categories this was a year for the tourism records book," said Mayor Bloomberg at a press conference Tuesday held at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.
"Our cities unrivaled arts and cultural attractions--all 1200 of them--were a big reason why."
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.
"The strength of our tourism industry is one of the reasons New York City was less impacted by the national recession than other cities,'' Bloomberg said.
"And it continues to be one of the reasons we're growing faster than other cities today.''
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. With these released numbers, New York City is the most popular tourist attraction in the United States.