With a final count still pending, the city's tourism office said Sunday that an estimated 46 million people visited the city last year, up 5 percent from the year before. The jump was largely due to visitors from other countries, who numbered an estimated 8.5 million, a growth of 17 percent.
George Fertitta, chief executive of city tourism office NYC & Company, said the visitors were drawn by more than a favorable exchange rate and the city's international marketing efforts.
"The city is more vibrant, cleaner and safer - and it's just more exciting than ever before," he said. "It really is experiencing a great moment. Almost everything is functioning on all cylinders, from the performing arts to the museums to the theater and restaurants."
The portion of the city's tourists who were from other countries had dwindled since the Sept. 11 attacks, and last year's growth returned the ratio to pre-2001 levels.
The city has been working to draw such international visitors, who stay longer and spend more money. NYC & Company has launched an overseas television, print and billboard campaign, and in 2007 it more than doubled its marketing offices overseas, targeting countries including China, Brazil and Canada.
While the city has gotten increasingly popular with many nations in Europe and elsewhere, the number of Japanese citizens deciding to visit continued to fall, to 260,000 last year from 410,000 in 2000. Fertitta attributed the decline to economic troubles in Japan and what he said was a tendency among many Japanese to visit a destination only once.
New York is one of only a few U.S. urban centers that did not see a drop in the number of overseas visitors between 2000 and 2006, and Fertitta said he expected to continue working to hold the city's lead, in part by opening marketing offices in Australia and India.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said he wants the city to attract 50 million travelers each year by 2015.
In 2006, the city welcomed about 44 million visitors, the previous record. That number surpassed the 2005 record total of 42.6 million.
Last year, visitors to New York spent $4 billion more than they had the year before.
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