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Marty crosses pond to pitch Brooklyn

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The King of Kings is in the land of Queens pitching a vacation fit for a prince.

Borough President Markowitz jetted off to foggy London on Wednesday night on a weeklong junket to encourage British tour operators to fuhgedabout Manhattan and send their customers to Brooklyn instead.

“Tourism is one of Brooklyn’s biggest and most-vital growth sectors,” the Beep said in a statement before hopping onto a big old jet airliner to attend the World Travel Market expo this week.

“I’ll do whatever it takes to show the world the beauty of our borough, even if it means leaving.”

Tourism is a vital — and growing — part of the Brooklyn economy. Last year, the number of visitors to the borough’s 27 main attractions rose more than 7 percent from the previous year, with more than 12 million people stopping by the Brooklyn Museum, the Botanic Garden, Deno’s Wonder Wheel, Junior’s and other hot spots, according to NYC & Company, the city’s official tourism board (see sidebar).

But selling Brooklyn overseas has been a hard job, mostly because foreign tourists stick to well-trodden itineraries. Even cruise ship passengers who disembark in Red Hook don’t spend much time in the borough, hopping on busses and into cabs for rides to Manhattan or the airports.

But the word is getting out. According to Markowitz’s office, the Brooklyn tourism center in Borough Hall, which opened in February 2004, now gets 250-300 visitors per week — more than double the first-year figures.

And Travel + Leisure magazine has a big spread on Brooklyn this month, the latest glossy to advise tourists that there’s no sleep ’til Brooklyn.

Markowitz’s trip — which includes airfare and lodging for his wife Jamie, as well — is being paid for by the Brooklyn Marriott, which is sponsoring the junket to drum up business for itself and other tourist-dependent businesses in the borough.

The arrangement is above board, said Markowitz’s spokesman, Eric Demby. City ethics code allows private companies to fly elected officials all over the world — as long as the pols are on “official” business. The cost of the trip is considered a gift to the city, not a gift to the lawmaker, Demby said.

“This is not a junket,” Demby said. “An influx of tourists does not just happen. You have to go out there and pitch your place — and nobody does it better than Marty.

“Marty’s goal has been to put Brooklyn on the international map, which is a very important thing,” he said.

Even better news? As the Beep will discover, it’s pretty easy to keep to one’s diet in England.

The top five

Borough President Markowitz is in England trying to drum up tourism for his beloved hometown, which is all too often ignored by travelers from abroad. Here are the top five tourist attractions in Brooklyn (and the number of visitors they drew last year). One thing to keep in mind: Visitors to the Brooklyn Bridge, which easily number in the millions, are not tracked by tourism authorities.

1. The New York Aquarium, Coney Island (780,000)

2. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Prospect Heights (700,000)

3. Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, Coney Island (650,000)

4. Brooklyn Museum, Prospect Heights (411,409)

5. The Brooklyn Academy of Music, Fort Greene (400,000)

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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