PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It appears Philadelphia tourism is bouncing back as the COVID-19 pandemic eases. New numbers show visitors are returning to the city and the region.

A COVID comeback is underway and the City of Brotherly Love is bouncing back.

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“It’s amazing how much things feel real and right in our industry these days,”  President and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau Gregg Caren said.

Caren says it’s great to see the city alive again.

He says it wasn’t an easy task to bring tourism back to the area but we are getting there.

“Their predictions were that we wouldn’t come back to 2019 levels — sort of normal times — until 2026. That has been pushed up to 2024 and really even into the end of 2023,” Caren said.

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City representatives are seeing increases in visitation, spending, economic impact, tax revenue and jobs.

The city says 36.2 million people visited the greater Philadelphia region in 2021, a 21% increase from 2020. When it comes to spending, visitors spent $5.3 billion, a 26% increase from 2020.

“To see our hospitality community work so smartly, strategically, and collaboratively to bring visitors back to our hotels, museums and restaurants and shops is hallmark Philly,” Mayor Jim Kenney said.

Caren says the Convention Center has always been ready for the big events even through the pandemic.

“The building never really went dark. If you think about it, our convention center served as a polling place, served as a testing place, as a vaccination place and it allowed us to do a few events during the midst of the pandemic,” Caren said.

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The goal is to keep this momentum going and continue to bring tourism and money back into the area.