Brooklyn a big player as city takes number 1 spot as tourism capital of U.S.

A Brooklyn eatery that has benefited from the city’s tourism efforts took center stage as Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the success of the city’s tourism efforts in 2009, as well as kicking off two upcoming promotions designed to encourage travelers to choose New York for a winter getaway.

The mayor told a throng of journalists – gathered at the Greenhouse Café, 77th Street and Third Avenue, in Bay Ridge – that in 2009, for the first time since 1990, New York was the “most popular” travel destination in the United States, topping both Orlando, Florida, and Las Vegas, Nevada, to claim the tourism crown.

“The next thing you know, maybe Mickey Mouse is going to be moving to the Big Apple,” Bloomberg quipped as he recounted the statistics compiled by NYC & Company.

But, major league mouse or no, the city continues to devise ways to attract tourists.

This winter, for example, there are two promotions that the administration hopes will draw visitors from far and near: NYC: The Real Deal, running through February 28th, in which upwards of 200 attractions, restaurants and shops citywide will be offering special discounts; and New York City’s Restaurant Week, January 25th through February 7th,during which participating eateries will be offering $24.07 three-course lunches and $35 three-course dinners.

While Brooklyn traditionally holds its own Restaurant Week in the spring, three borough chowhouses will be participating in the Real Deal: The Greenhouse Café, La Piazzetta at 442 Graham Avenue; and Pete’s Downtown Restaurant, at 2 Water Street.

Participants for Restaurant Week had not been announced as this paper went to press.

In all, said the mayor, the city welcomed 45.25 million tourists last year, including 8.6 international visitors, “Outdrawing our nearest rival, Los Angeles, by a ratio of two to one.” That number of tourists added significantly to the city’s bottom line; the visitors accounted for “an incredible $28 billion” in revenue, Bloomberg said.

The good news, he stressed, was that the city claimed the largest market share in the entire country, adding tourism sector jobs and hotel rooms.

Nonetheless, in so doing, New York still remained down 3.9 percent from 2008 in terms of the number of travelers who visited the city, but that, said Bloomberg, was far less than the 10 percent reduction that had been forecast at the end of 2008.

This, he contended, is “a sign that our city’s economy as a whole is poised for a comeback.”

Indeed, Bloomberg noted, the city now boasts some 311,000 tourism and hospitality industry jobs, “slightly higher” than before the recession started, while other cities that are tourist destinations such as Orlando, Las Vegas and Los Angeles shed jobs. Will 1,100 new jobs created in the hotel industry, the employment figures, he added, are “a direct reflection of how many people came and how much they spent.”

“The bottom line,” added Bloomberg, is that, “over the past eight years, we really laid the groundwork for more visitors, and I think we will continue to see even more tourists on our streets as the economy improves.”

A total of 46.7 million visitors is predicted for 2010, Bloomberg added, noting that it would be another milestone on the way to his administration’s goal of hosting 50 million visitors each year by 2012.

Why was Brooklyn chosen as the site of the announcement? Explained George Fertitta, the CEO of NYC & Company, there has been “a greater awareness” of all the borough has to offer in recent years, in particular its “Pockets of culture and pockets of cool.”

In addition, in terms of attracting visitors, “Brooklyn is doing second best of all the boroughs,” he said.

The Greenhouse Café has had its share of visitors from outside the neighborhood, said co-owner John Keegan, who noted that hits on the eatery’s website have “quadrupled” since the restaurant “joined NYC & Company, four years ago. This includes not only people from other parts of the city, but from other areas of the United States as well as around the world.