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NYC launches ad campaign to woo Spanish visitors

Written by editor

NEW YORK – New York City is including a new message in its pitch to lure visitors _ don’t worry about swine flu.

NEW YORK – New York City is including a new message in its pitch to lure visitors _ don’t worry about swine flu.

City tourism officials joined their Spanish counterparts on Tuesday to announce a $1.7 million advertising campaign to promote New York tourism in Spain, a country that sends hundreds of thousands of visitors here annually. They used the promotion’s start to remind potential visitors that the city is open for business.

“New York City has the highest market share of Spain visitation to the United States,” said Kimberly Spell, senior vice president of Public Affairs at NYC & Co., the city’s tourism agency. “We want to also assure Spanish visitors that it is safe to travel to New York City and encourage them to continue with their travel plans as normal.”

The total number of confirmed swine flu cases in the state rose from 90 to 91 on Tuesday, 74 of them in New York City.

In suburban Westchester, Health Commissioner Joshua Lipsman said he would reassess Monday’s recommendation that Rye Country Day School, which has two probable swine flu cases, shut down for two weeks. He said the school may reopen as soon as Monday.

A northern New York school district closed Tuesday due to a suspected case of swine flu.

Sandy Creek Superintendent Stewart Arnell said the district decided to close after a student at the elementary school 40 miles north of Syracuse walked into the nurse’s office sick on Monday.

The majority of New York City’s 74 cases of H1N1, or swine flu, have been traced to St. Francis Preparatory in Queens, a Catholic high school that reopened Monday after being closed all of last week.

Travel industry watchers said New York City tourism has not declined even though the city has the largest concentration of confirmed swine flu cases outside Mexico.

“We’ve heard very limited examples of cancellations,” said NYC & Co. spokesman Chris Heywood. “We just wanted to address it right up front. New York City is open for business and safe for travel.”

Travel agents said that some tourists had canceled trips to Mexico, where 26 deaths have been attributed to swine flu, but few, if any, were altering travel plans to New York.

Bob Whitley, head of the U.S. Tour Operators Association, said he had not heard of any cancellations of tours to New York because of swine flu.

Jan Stanczak, owner of Travel Leaders in O’Fallon, Mo., said, “We haven’t even had anyone question whether it was a threat to travel to New York.”

The Spanish tourism campaign includes some 2,000 posters that will be displayed throughout the country.

The promotion is tied to New York’s “Rainbow Pilgrimage” campaign to boost tourism among gays and lesbians on the 40th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots, a gay liberation milestone.

New York City is the top U.S. destination for tourists from Spain. Officials estimate they spent an estimated $389 million in the city in 2008.