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New York City Surpasses Tourism Record

A new report finds that tourism to New York City rose by six percent in 2007. An estimated 8.5 million visitors came from overseas, even as international travel to other American destinations declined. Victoria Cavaliere reports from VOA's New York Bureau that the weakened dollar made New York an appealing destination for many foreign tourists.

A report released by New York City tourism officials this month found that a record number of visitors came to New York City in 2007. More than 46 million people vacationed in the "Big Apple," spending around $28 billion last year.

NYC & Company, the tourism arm of the city's government, says total foreign travel to rose about 20 percent in 2007.

Many foreign tourists chose to visit New York - the most expensive U.S. city - because the weakened dollar made hotels, food and entertainment more affordable.

Christopher Heywood, the Director of Travel and Media Relations for NYC & Company, said Europeans are at a special advantage.

"We've seen a tremendous momentum from European markets as a result of the weak dollar," he said. "We've seen a particular increase in markets like the U.K., which saw a 25 percent increase in 2007, and Spain which saw an increase of about 37 percent and Italy which went up 36 percent."

Heywood says foreign tourists are especially important to New York City's tourism market because they stay in the city for longer and spend more money than the average American tourist.

"Shopping is one of the big drivers of tourism to New York City," he explained. "Europeans are literally coming here with one suitcase and leaving with two or three. They are getting considerable savings here. And, they are buying up major U.S. brands. They are frequenting stores like Abercrombie & Fitch, they are going to buy Tiffany's jewelry, Levis jeans, Apple iPods."

Tourism is one of New York's most important industries. But, visitors to the city fell off after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

In recent years, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been actively trying to draw visitors back to the city. A global promotional campaign called "This Is New York City," says New York is safer, cleaner and more vibrant.

Meantime, NYC & Company, added nine international offices in 2007, including offices in Russia, China, South Korean and Brazil. Heywood says there are now 16 tourism offices around the world.

"New York City has always been one of the most appealing destinations around the world. It's a global destination," he said. "It's almost a rite of passage for international travelers when they are coming to the U.S to come to New York City."

Visitors from the Britain made up the greatest percentage of foreign travelers to New York last year, followed by Canadians and Germans.