Visit Orlando, the tourism arm of the area that includes Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and many other attractions, announced Tuesday that Orlando welcomed a record-breaking 55.1 million visitors last year. That was 7.2% more than 2010’s record 51.4 million.
So by the numbers, it’s the nation’s top destination, though other draws such as New York (it says it passed the 50 million mark last year, with 50.5 million visitors) might quibble, because Orlando includes multiple counties (Orange, Osceola and Seminole) in the count. New York counts its five boroughs.
Orlando’s domestic visitor volume is calculated by D.K. Shifflet & Associates. International visitors are counted by the U.S. Office of Travel & Tourism Industries, Visit Orlando says.
It says domestic visitation (business & leisure) accounted for 51.3 million visitors, a 7.5% increase over 2010 and a record for any U.S. destination; international travel totaled 3.8 million, an increase of 3.5% from 2010. Orlando is the first destination in the country to welcome more than 55 million visitors and remains the most visited destination in the USA, Visit Orlando says.
Not so fast, says Julie Wood, deputy press secretary to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “Visit Orlando counts travelers to three counties and 36 different cities and towns outside of the city of Orlando. When we count, we don’t add Newark, New City, New Rochelle, New Hope, New Haven or anywhere else to our total – we only include visitors to New York City,” she said in a statement to USA TODAY. “All on their own, the five boroughs attracted 50.5 million visitors last year – a record number. New York City remains the No. 1 one overseas destination in the U.S., capturing 33% of the market share – the most of any destination.”
Orlando fires back. In an e-mail, Visit Orlando spokeswoman Denise Spiegel says: “The majority of our hotels and all of our major attractions are within a 20 mile tourism corridor, not spread throughout the three county area, making the boroughs verses county comparison irrelevant. And the average consumer has no idea which borough or county they are in. They are there to visit the destination – New York or Orlando.”
As for how domestic visitors are counted, she says that “every month D.K. Shifflet conducts a nationally representative panel survey questioning U.S. residents about any trips taken in the previous three months. (It’s a commonly used research polling method, similar to what is done in the political sector during elections and a method used by many other destinations that allows for benchmarking comparisons). Visitors are counted as those that took an overnight or any day trip coming from more than 50 miles outside of the three-county area during the calendar year 2011.”
Source: USA Today