Move over NYC. Orlando, Florida now claims more tourists than any other city in the United States, according to city mayor Buddy Dyer. Dyer announced on Tuesday that his city was the first in the United States to surpass 50 million visitors in a calendar year - a much vocalized goal of New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg for the 2012 calendar year.
Back in January, Mr. Bloomberg applauded his city's record of 48.7 million visitors as a positive step towards reaching his 2012 projection. Now, it looks as though Buddy Dyer of Orlando has stolen his thunder.
George A. Fertitta, the man in charge of NYC & Co., the city's official tourism bureau, does not accept the defeat. He claims that of the 51.5 million visitors, many never set foot in the city of Orlando. After all, Disney World is 25 miles (40 kilometers) out of town.
According to the New York Times, Fertitta claims We're not in competition with Orlando. They're saying that they grew by 10 percent, which seems extraordinary. If it's accurate, God bless them. I never heard of their goal being 50 million. That's Mike Bloomberg's goal.
At 47 million, domestic tourists still made up the majority of Orlando's visitors, bringing hotel room occupancy up 6.3 percent. Orlando's tourism industry supports approximately 400,000 jobs for local residents and generates roughly $13.6 billion in local wages.
Gary Sain, president and chief executive of Visit Orlando, believes the new marketing campaign, Orlando Makes Me Smile, helped the city reach its milestone. He added that the new attraction at Universal Orlando, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, may have helped drive more visitors to the region.
While Orlando received just 3.6 million visitors from abroad in 2010, New York attracted 9.7 million and surpassed both Orlando and Las Vegas in hotel occupancy. Amidst the strength of foreign currency against the US dollar, tourism continues to rise in the U.S.