Take that, Mickey Mouse!
New York City is poised to see a record 50.2 million visitors in 2011, a full year ahead of the city's goal and enough to surpass other U.S. tourism hot spots, including Orlando and Las Vegas, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday.
"That means more guests in our hotels, more shoppers in our stores, larger audiences in our museums and theaters," Bloomberg boasted during a ceremony in Times Square to fete the 50 millionth tourist to the Big Apple.
Officials picked a couple visiting from England, who had just been married at the top of Rockefeller Center, to represent that tourism milestone.
Last year, the city hosted 48.8 million visitors -- a 33% boost for the industry in the decade following 9/11. The mayor during his tenure has made tourism a major initiative, particularly because it adds more than $8 billion a year in tax revenue.
Orlando tourism officials, however, were ready to challenge New York's numbers: They maintain their metro area -- which includes Disney World -- is set to lure more than 53 million visitors this year.
A mayoral spokesman, however, said Orlando's figures are inflated because it counts a wider area, whereas New York only tallies people visiting within the five boroughs.
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Tourists take a bigger bite out of the Big Apple
40.1 million Domestic visitors expected this year, up 2.5% from 2010
10.1 million International visitors expected this year, up 4.1% from 2010
$32 billion Amount in visitor spending funneled to local economy
1.06 million Visitors from United Kingdom in 2011 – the most of any country
Source: NYC & Company
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The pros and cons of tourists
Pro: They spend big bucks, generating $31.5 billion in 2010.
Con: We have to deal with dozens of unsightly shops peddling trinkets.
Pro: They support the hospitality and hotel industries, which equates to more than 310,000 local jobs and $17.3 billion in wages.
Con: That's small consolation: it seems like we each spend about $17.3 billion a year for our apartments.
Pro: Their sense of wonder for our city stops them in their tracks.
Con: We have places to go! Stop idling on sidewalks and subway platforms — and rolling over our feet with luggage.
Pro: They're a big boost to Broadway, contributing to the 100 million tickets sold each year.
Con: There's always another tourist-friendly schlock musical coming out, e.g. "The Addams Family" or "Sister Act."
Pro: They give New Yorkers a reason to take pride in our city.
Con: And a reason to take pride in avoiding tourist traps.