come on down we are all ready for you =)
By Ethan Miller, Getty Images
Hotels and casinos light up the Las Vegas Strip, seen from Mix at Mandalay Bay, in March.
NUMBER OF VISITORS Enlarge
By Thad Allender, USA TODAY
Visitors take photos of New York's Statue of Liberty in June. Enlarge
By Gene Duncan, Walt Disney World, via AP
Park-goers ride Soarin' at Disney's Epcot in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Vegas, NYC, Orlando prep for tourism boost this summer
By Jeff Delong, Charisse Jones
and Laura Ruane, USA TODAY
Three of the USA's most popular vacation cities report tourism numbers improving this year, and tourism officials are crossing their fingers for a successful summer travel season.
Skip to: New York
VEGAS: New 'value' in Sin City vacation
Tourism officials in Las Vegas
say it looks like a safe bet that business is bouncing back as the economy begins a slow recovery and visitors are attracted again to Sin City's famous glitz.
Officials at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority report seven months of growth in tourism. There was a 1.5% jump from January through March of 2010 compared with the same period last year and a 3% increase projected for the year overall, says Cathy Tull, senior vice president of marketing for the authority.
After 39.1 million visitors came to Vegas in 2007, visitor numbers dropped to 37.4 million in 2008 and 36.3 million last year, the tourism group reports. The drop in visitors was felt in several areas. Attendance for conventions declined 24% in 2009. Gambling revenue at Vegas casinos fell 10%, and average room rates dipped 22%.
In 2010, the number of visitors is expected to rebound to about 37.5 million, Tull says.
TOURISM: Vegas, NYC, Orlando prep for boost this summer
PHOTOS: A pit stop at South of the Border
"I think there's pent-up demand," Tull says. People want to travel, they want to escape, and Vegas works very well for that."
It works well for Doni Gassaway of Sparks, Nev. Although there are plenty of opportunities close to her hometown in northern Nevada, nothing compares to the excitement of the state's much-larger southern city when vacation time arrives. She and her husband typically hit Vegas three or four times per year.
"I like the night life and the different things to do there," says Gassaway, 45. "The Strip is just fascinating. Every time we go there, we try some place different."
Visitors such as Gassaway bring big bucks. An estimated 85% of visitors to Vegas are leisure travelers, Tull says. They inject an estimated $35 billion into the local economy every year, providing 235,000 jobs, she says.
Vegas hotel-casino properties are taking extra steps to lure visitors to help boost an improving 2010, Tull says. Many are packaging "some really great" room rates in deals incorporating dining, shopping, spas or shows.
"There's value right now in Vegas for travelers," Tull says.
— Delong reports for the RenoGazette-Journal
NEW YORK: A resilient attraction
NEW YORK — Millions of visitors are expected to descend on New York this summer as tourism officials tout the city to everyone from the environmentally conscious to the city's neighbors who can get to the Big Apple just by hopping in the car.
Tourism officials estimate that the number of visitors to New York this summer will match the roughly 12 million who came last year and possibly surpass it, says Tiffany Townsend, a spokeswoman for NYC & Co., the city's office of tourism.
"We certainly think there's a potential to see an increase in summer travel," Townsend says.
The number of visitors to New York dipped 3.9% in 2009 from 2008, when the city saw a record 47.1 million tourists, according to NYC & Co.
Tourism is a $30 billion a year industry for New York, and even in the depths of the recession, visitors came. In 2009, the city was the most popular domestic destination for U.S. travelers for the first time in 20 years.
A major international destination, New York drew fewer visitors from overseas last year because of the global economic downturn, contributing to the overall drop in tourism, says Kimberly Spell of NYC & Co. Still, the city was the top U.S. destination for overseas travelers.
City officials are casting a wide net to attract tourists who may be looking for more tailored travel experiences, such as seniors and the environmentally conscious, and they are courting residents of neighboring states, like Connecticut and New Jersey.
"We're … really trying to create a wide range of different incentives for people to travel to New York City
in the summer," Townsend says. "We want to focus on people in the tri-state area and within a five-hour driving radius of New York City, as well as … on domestic markets and international markets."
Summer travelers will find special deals for museums, restaurants, shopping and other attractions, she says. In July, the city's office of tourism is even launching a mobile version of its website to give sightseeing visitors an easy way to access information on their cellphones.
Laurent Garipuy, 43, was among the camera-toting crowds milling around Rockefeller Center on a recent morning. It was his fourth trip to New York from his home in Lyon, France. He says it never gets old. "There is no city like New York in the world," says Garipuy, a city engineer. "Not even Paris. It's beautiful, but it's not like New York."
— Charisse Jones
ORLANDO: Harry Potter adds magic
Orlando is counting on vacationers to swoop into town for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, opening June 18 at Universal's Islands of Adventure.
"I'm sure we will check (the Potter attraction) out. I've seen all of the coverage on TV, and it looks awesome," says Pam Attuso, a mother of twin 6-year-old girls who lives in Fort Myers, Fla.
An influx of Potter-philes could be a welcome potion for the city's lifeblood tourism and hospitality trades.
The number of visitors totaled 45.3 million in recession-scarred 2009, down 7.3% from 48.9 million 2008 and down 11% from a record 51 million guests in 2006, the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau estimates.
The first quarter of 2010 brought a 7.5% gain in visitors, year-over-year, for that period.
"With 300 million fans worldwide, we think Harry Potter definitely will increase our visitation," says Gary Sain, visitor bureau president. Harry and his pals won't have to work all of the magic, however, he adds:
SeaWorld's Aquatica water park sports the new Omaka Rocka slide, featuring high-speed tubes, half-pipe flumes and moments of what promoters call "near-weightlessness."
The Main Street Electrical Parade — with live performances and new light-and-sound technology — returns from California to Walt Disney World
in early June for a limited engagement.
AirTran is packaging flights with four-night hotel stays, starting at $329 per person.
SeaWorld and Aquatica are offering three-night/three-day unlimited admission to both parks, starting at $690 for a family of four. Book by May 31.
Download the Orlando Magicard free at VisitOrlando.com/deals for year-round savings at more than 75 area businesses.
— Ruane reports for TheNews-Press
in Fort Myers, Fla.