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 A Big Boost to New York City in an Economic Slowdown are the Foreign
 Tourists with Favorable Exchange Rates Storming into the City

By Garett Sloane, amNewYork, New YorkMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

July 31, 2008--The city now generates the most tourism bucks in the country, surpassing heavyweights Orlando and Las Vegas, according to a new report. And, boy, could we use the money.

Tourism is one of the few bright spots left in an economy that has been hammered by the Wall Street crisis. Bankers may be losing jobs and cutting spending, but foreigners with favorable exchange rates are not.

"We expect the momentum to continue as a result of the weak dollar ... the city has never been so welcoming and vibrant," said Christopher Haywood, vice president of travel, tourism and public relations at NYC & Co., the city's tourism agency.

The city reached the tourism milestone, reported by the tourism group Global Insights, thanks to the record 7.6 million visitors from overseas in 2007, who generally stay longer and spend more money than people visiting from within the United States. In all, 46 million visitors came to the city and spent more than $28 billion last year.

"They're coming with one suitcase and leaving with two," Haywood said. "Or they're coming with an empty suitcase and leaving with it full."

A look at the statistics shows New York is emerging as a playground for even the developing world. Indian visitors were up 46 percent, according to NYC & Co. figures. The city is opening its next overseas tourism bureau in Mumbai, India, in the fall, Haywood said.

However, Europeans and Brits continue to storm the city and spread their euros and pounds. French visitors increased by 39 percent last year.

"I guess it's the right time to visit," said Erwan, who didn't give his last name but is visiting from Paris. "You think less so you spend more."

By many accounts, tourists are having the most fun in the city, spending as they like while New Yorkers are in the midst of economic meltdown. While job growth increased just 0.6 percent over the last year, the leisure and hospitality sector grew 2 percent in the same period, according to the Department of Labor.

Residents and city leaders alike realize the city needs the tourism money.

"They should come here, because I'm not going over there," said Nat Pappagallo, 60, of the Upper West Side. "There's a lot of money to be spent and a lot of money to be made. We just have to grin and bear it. It'll be our turn to go to England and France again."

Simone Herbin contributed to this report.

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Copyright (c) 2008, amNewYork, New York

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