New York draws record number of tourists

December 22nd, 2011 by Mariah

(CNN) — It’s been a big tourism year for the Big Apple.

New York expects to draw more than 50 million visitors by the end of 2011 — a record for the city, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Tuesday.

“While playing host to the world isn’t new for us, the number of visitors we’re welcoming in recent years is new,” Bloomberg said during a ceremony in Times Square, while surrounded by cheering tourism officials.

“That means more guests in our hotels, more shoppers in our stores, larger audiences in our museums and theaters, more diners at our restaurants.”

The city reached the milestone a year ahead of schedule, Bloomberg said. Throughout 2011, New York was the No. 1 city and overseas destination in the United States, his office added.

To celebrate, the mayor named newlyweds Craig and Lucy Johnson from Lichfield, England, as the honorary 50 millionth visitors to New York and presented them with a “golden ticket” to the city.

The couple will receive thousands of dollars’ worth of gift cards from New York retailers and tickets to a Broadway show.

The Johnsons were among the 10.1 million international visitors to come to the city this year. Another 40.1 million tourists came from within U.S. borders.

Tourism is a huge moneymaker for the city, generating $32 billion in visitor spending and $48 billion in economic impact, Bloomberg’s office said.

“New York City’s quality of life has contributed to this great success, and we are confident we will sustain the success of our tourism industry in the months and years ahead,” Bloomberg said.