New York City is once again on top of the world.
Gotham was the most popular tourist destination in the country last year for the first time since 1990, and it was the top draw for international visitors to the United States, city officials announced Monday.
However, despite its worldwide popularity, tourism in the city dropped by 4 percent last year. Just over 45 million people visited the the Big Apple in 2009, a smaller drop-off than the 10 percent decline officials had predicted. The city expects a 3.2 percent increase is tourists this year and announced a goal of 50 million annual visitors by 2012.
“Last year, while tourism declined significantly in cities across the country, we fared far better than most,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The city beat out Orlando to claim the No. 1 tourist spot, and it had 8.6 million foreign visitors last year, twice as many as Los Angeles, which finished second in that category.
Tourists spent an estimated $28 billion last year, which was down from the $32 billion spent in 2008 and slightly less than what was spent in 2007. In 2009, there were also fewer international visitors — who spend five times as much as domestic tourists — than in either of the previous two years.
“We expect that 2010 will be a year of recovery,” said George Fertitta, the head of NYC & Company, the city’s tourism arm.