By Mike Schneider, AP
ORLANDO, Florida — More than 62 million visitors came to Orlando last year, making the theme-park mecca the most-visited tourist destination in the U.S., city tourism officials said Thursday.
The 2014 visitor count sets a new milestone for the U.S. tourism industry and was a 5 percent increase from the previous year, according to local tourism agency Visit Orlando.
In a statement, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow called passing the mark of 60 million visitors a year ��a significant achievement for Orlando and the U.S. travel industry.��
Officials with Orlando’s closest competitor in tourism numbers, New York City, said that while the Florida destination had more tourists overall, the Big Apple still was No. 1 with international visitors, followed by Miami and Los Angeles. That doesn’t capture visitors who entered the United States elsewhere and traveled to the destination.
Of New York City’s 56.4 million visitors last year, 12.2 million were from abroad. Orlando had about half as many international visitors.
Orlando tourism officials attributed the boom to renovations and expansions at the area’s many theme parks. Universal Orlando opened Diagon Alley, its second Harry Potter-themed attraction. Walt Disney World completed New Fantasyland.
Tourism officials said the visitors contributed US$200 million in hotel tax collections for Orange County in 2014, also a record.
Visit Orlando calculated the visitor numbers using figures from the National Office of Travel and Tourism and two research firms: Smith Travel Research and DK Shifflet.