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New York had more tourists this year than ever before

The Big Apple has never been more popular with tourists, the mayor's office announced yesterday.

A record-setting 54.3 million visitors are expected to hit the city in 2013, an all-time high that's almost 20 million more people than visited the city in 2002, according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The economic impact from tourism in the city is likely to reach $58.7 billion for 2013, with $39.4 billion of that coming from direct spending, officials said. Further, Bloomberg predicted the city will hit his goal of 55 million yearly visitors by next year, one year ahead of his original target date. Last year, 52.7 million people took a trip to city -- then an all-time record.

The "work that we've done to strengthen tourism over the past 12 years has helped our city weather the national economic downturn and come out in far better shape than most other cities," Bloomberg said.

"Since 2002, overall tourism here has grown more than 50%, while international visitation has increased more than 10%," he said, adding that areas outside of Manhattan have seen particularly strong growth.

Emily Rafferty, president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and chair of NYC & Company, the city's publicity arm, said New York's cultural institutions were a major part of the record-setting year.

"This year, New York City is poised to welcome more than 26 million cultural visitors to the five boroughs," she said, adding that the city's "cultural institutions continue to attract visitors who come to experience both our iconic museums as well as our off-the-beaten path cultural gems."

Of this year's 54.3 million visitors, about 43 million came from domestic spots, with the rest coming from international visits, officials said. New York is the country's most popular big city destination and has the highest number of visits from overseas to the U.S.

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