Orlando the top U.S. destination in 2014, N.Y.C second

Orlando in 2014 became the first U.S. city to attract more than 60 million visitors in a single year.
By Doug G. Ware  |  April 12, 2015 at 2:04 PM
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ORLANDO, Fla., April 12 (UPI) -- For the second year in a row, Central Florida was home to the top U.S. tourist destination last year -- beating out New York City with a record 62 million total visitors.

Visit Orlando, the city's official tourism bureau, said last week the 62 million mark is a new all-time high in the U.S. travel industry. In 2013, Orlando was also the top U.S. draw with 59 million domestic visitors.

New York City was 2014's second most-visited U.S. city, as more than 56 million tourists traveled to the Big Apple -- about six million fewer than the "Theme Park Capital of the World" saw.

"This historic milestone is the latest testament to Orlando's leadership in tourism," Visit Orlando President and CEO George Aguel said. "It's a tribute to the steadfast commitment and continued investment by our tourism community, the special brand of service that greets our visitors."

Experts say the biggest factor in Orlando's tourism success, without question, is that it's home to many destination resorts like Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World -- attractions that regularly introduce new features, rides and exhibits.

Visitors to Orlando also generated $200 million in hotel tax revenue alone last year, with 32 million nightly hotel rentals, tourism officials said.

Central Florida officials say the tourism is good not only because for the money visitors spend, but also because of the jobs they create. Orange County, Fla., Mayor Teresa Jacobs said the positive effect of tourism is the greatest generator of economic impact and jobs for the region, Tourism Review reported.

Before 2014, no U.S. city had ever attracted more than 60 million visitors in a single year.

"Passing the 60 million annual visitors mark is a significant achievement for Orlando and the U.S. travel industry that generates $2.1 trillion for the U.S. economy each year," U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said. "Thanks to the close partnership among members of Orlando's tourism community and strong leadership by public officials and Visit Orlando, this popular destination known around the world is well positioned to continue setting records in tourism."

New York City drew more than 56 million visitors in 2014 and was the second most-visited U.S. destination, behind only Orlando, Fla. However, New York City remained the top U.S. destination for foreign travelers. Photo: UPI/John Angelillo
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Though New York City saw about six million fewer visitors last year than Orlando, tourism officials there aren't sulking for their second-place finish -- because the metropolis remains the top American draw for foreign tourists. In 2014, more than 12 million tourists flocked to New York's five boroughs from abroad. That's about double the international tourism than Orlando saw.

"We're thrilled to be the number one destination for international visitation. That is a market that stays longer and spends more money," New York City tourism official Chris Heywood said.

New York City and Orlando typically finish first and second in U.S. tourism -- followed by other domestic destinations like Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego and Atlanta.

Including domestic and foreign visitors, New York City's 56.4 million tourists is also an all-time record for the city. City tourism officials said the visitors generated more than $61 billion in overall economic impact. Like Orlando, New York City recorded 32 million nightly hotel room rentals in 2014.

"Our excellent quality of life, low levels of crime, and constant dynamism continue to attract record tourism each year, and 2014 was no exception," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

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