New York tourism bosses have reported a preliminary 1% rise in UK visitor numbers in 2013, and believe leisure travel will be fundamental to future growth.

Speaking at the IPW conference in Chicago for the first time since taking over as chief executive of marketing body NYC & Company, Fred Dixon insisted he was pleased with the performance from the UK.

“Solid is the new up,” he said. “Of course we would like to see more visitors from the UK, but we understand that there is still some reticence to travel and we are also heavily affected by the strength of the pound so as a result we are very happy with the market.”

He added: “The business travel market has returned and has improved steadily, so we see the real growth coming in leisure and MICE business.”

Projected numbers for 2013 stand at 1.04 million, a small increase on 2012 and relatively consistent with the 1.05 million UK visitors in 2010 and 2011.

However, the numbers remain well down on pre-recession levels, with 1.32 million visiting in 2008.

Dixon said he was confident that a string of new hotels and attractions opening in the coming years would appeal to UK visitors.

New attractions in the pipeline include an observatory wheel and retail development in Staten Island, and the ongoing development of the former World Trade Center site with additions including a Westfield shopping centre.

The 9/11 Memorial Museum is also about to open, with timed pre-booked and group tickets to be made available as a commissionable product from next year.