Times Square has never been this busy. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Terabass
Visitors continue to flock to New York City, helping to set yet another record for the city's tourism industry.
An estimated 54.3 million visitors will have visited the Big Apple by the end of this year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on Tuesday.
"Tourism plays a vital role in our city’s economy, and the work that we’ve done to strengthen tourism over the past 12 years has helped our city weather the national economic downturn and come out in far better shape than most other cities," the mayor said.
In 2012, the city welcomed 52.7 million visitors — a record number at that time. Tourism has grown by about 54 percent since 2002, when 35 million visitors came to the city, according to NYC & Company, the city's marketing and tourism organization.
The mayor had set a goal of 55 million visitors by 2015, but he announced Tuesday that the city is on track to achieve that milestone one year early.
Visitors to the city will have generated $58.7 billion in overall economic impact and $39.4 billion in direct spending this year, officials estimated. In addition, jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector are anticipated to reach a monthly average of more than 370,000 by the end of the year.
"Diversifying our economy and making tourism a focus has resulted in record after record for our tourism industry, including employment, which continues to show growth and strength," said Deputy for Economic Development Mayor Robert Steel.
With more visitors filling up the city's hotels, an estimated 30 million hotel room nights will have been sold by year's end, representing an increase of 1 million from last year.
Hotel average occupancy is expected to finish at nearly 88 percent this year. Average room rates are up 4 percent to $296, and hotel development is expected to reach 100,000 rooms by the end of 2014, including many in the outer boroughs.
Of the more than 54 million visitors who came to the city this year, 42.9 million were domestic travelers and 11.4 million traveled from international locations, according to NYC & Company. Most international visitors to the city come from Canada, the United Kingdom, Brazil, France, Germany and Australia.