Los Angeles Projects Record 41.3 Million Visitors for 2012
By Mimi Kmet
August 31, 2012 9:55 PM
The Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board (LA Tourism), site of ASTA’s Travel Retailing and Destination Expo, Sept. 7-9, has projected record visitor numbers for 2012. The city’s mid-year forecast projects that 41.3 million people will visit by year-end, 2.4 percent above the current record of 40.3 million visitors set in 2011.
Among other indicators that tourism is on the rise in Los Angeles: Hotel occupancy rates for July averaged 83.9 percent, the highest monthly occupancy rate in the last 25 years of reported lodging metrics. Occupancy rates have exceeded 2011 rates every month this year. Year-to-date occupancy through July is 76.1 percent, up 4.5 percent over the same period last year. In addition, passenger traffic at Los Angeles International Airport through July was up 3.3 percent over 2011, putting the airport on pace to exceed 2007 pre-recession passenger totals. Moreover, Los Angeles is hosting 24 citywide conventions in 2012, the most since 2001, representing the largest number of occupied hotel rooms since 2000.
Susan Lomax, LA Tourism’s vice president of communications, said the growth is coming from both the leisure and the meetings and conventions sectors. “The stars have aligned on all fronts: domestic and international leisure travel, including visitors from drive markets like San Francisco, San Diego and Las Vegas, as well as international visitors, particularly from Asia,” she said. Strong visitor numbers to LA are also being seen from Canada and emerging markets in South America like Brazil. In the meetings and conventions market, Lomax said, there will be the most hotel room nights booked in 2012 since 9/11.
LA Tourism credits the recently formed Tourism Marketing District as a major factor in drawing more visitors to the destination. The district is funded with a self-assessment by area hotels, above and beyond the transient occupancy tax, to help fund additional marketing efforts. LA Tourism is charged with implementing those efforts. “With the new Tourism Marketing District support, we now have a stronger voice in the increasingly competitive travel space that is already paying off and helping to drive demand to visit,” said Mark Liberman, LA Tourism’s president and CEO.
Those efforts include a complete restructuring of LA Tourism’s sales organization and an augmented sales force, according to Lomax. In addition to a national sales team, there is now also a regional sales team, where each representative focuses on a region of Los Angeles. “They know their regions inside and out and work on regional California sales business,” Lomax said.
On the marketing side, LA Tourism is about to roll out a fall arts and culture promotion, which runs Oct. 1 through Nov. 11. The promotion offers free admission to 30 of L.A.’s top museums for every two-night stay booked at any hotel and at any price point, according to Lomax. Hotel stays can be booked on LA Tourism’s website, www.discoverlosangeles.com, as well as on Travelocity and Expedia.
Next spring LA Tourism will launch a fully integrated campaign to attract visitors to the destination for spring and summer travel. While it’s too early for specifics, Lomax said the campaign’s theme is “Endless Entertainment.” He said the idea is to showcase all of the options L.A. has to offer. LA tourism also is rolling out campaigns in Canada, Australia and the U.K. later this year and early next year and will launch revamped website in October.
In addition, “new products give new reasons for people to visit,” Lomax said. For example, the Space Shuttle Endeavor, which is scheduled to arrive at the California Science Center near downtown Los Angeles and be open to the public in late October, is projected to draw 700,000 to 900,000 people in its first year, she said. Tourism officials expect the momentum to continue into next year. “All indications show that we'll continue to have another great year in 2013,” Lomax said.