A Record Year for New York Tourism

New York City welcomed a record 52 million tourists in 2012, a 2.1 percent increase over 2011, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced Monday, crediting the city’s cultural institutions and its reputation as the safest major American city for the record.

“When you ask tourists why they’re here, visiting a cultural institution is the No. 1 thing they all talk about,” Mr. Bloomberg said as he stood in front of a Christmas tree covered with origami animals at the American Museum of Natural History, which received roughly five million visitors this year.

“The bottom line is we’ve just got to keep making New York more exciting and more attractive,” the mayor added, citing a goal of 55 million visitors by 2015.

New York City’s share of overseas tourism to the United States has also increased in recent years. One-third of all overseas tourists to the country now come to New York, according to George Fertitta, the chief executive of NYC & Company, the city’s marketing arm. The next most popular American city, Los Angeles, receives 13 percent of all overseas tourists.

In addition to the city’s cultural institutions and low murder rate, Mr. Bloomberg said that innovations that his administration has introduced, like bicycle lanes and pedestrian plazas, had also attracted international attention and contributed to tourism.

The mayor will, as always, preside over the dropping of the New Year’s Eve ball at midnight in Times Square, this year along with the Radio City Rockettes. On Monday morning, Mr. Bloomberg was flanked by half a dozen smiling Rockettes in sequined skirts that revealed stem-like legs.

Asked if his New Year’s Eve with the Rockettes would generate as much electricity as his encounter with Lady Gaga last year, when the superstar gave him a kiss on the mouth, Mr. Bloomberg fumbled for words.

“I – you know ­– I don’t rem- — Lady Gaga – she was – what was — I don’t know,” he sputtered. “I mean — I just — you know.”

Finally squeezing out a full sentence, he said, “There are a lot of great entertainers.”

“Lady Gaga is a great entertainer, and she’s very good for New York. The Rockettes are a great group of dancers; they’ve been here for 85 years, I think? Lady Gaga is not 85 years old.”

Asked what goals he had for 2013, his last year in office, Mr. Bloomberg said there was a lot on his administration’s agenda, including rezoning in Midtown and a possible deal to build a stadium for Major League Soccer in Queens.

As for personal goals, he said, “I’m always working on my waistline, my Spanish, my golf game.” And “I promised Diana I’d take her to a movie tomorrow,” he added, referring to his longtime girlfriend, Diana Taylor. “That’s as far forward as I’ve thought.”

Mr. Bloomberg’s administration announced another milestone Monday: water-main breaks in the city are down 20 percent from last year and have hit their lowest level since Mr. Bloomberg took office in 2002.

The mayor was asked if there was a causal link between high tourism numbers and unbroken water mains.

“None that comes leaping to mind, not even in jest,” Mr. Bloomberg replied. “I don’t know how to put the two together.”

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