Words from Wooden - May 2013

With spring upon us and summer coming fast, the continuing strength of LA tourism and its role in keeping our economy and our community thriving give us ample reason to celebrate our industry.

As always, our newsletter brings you the latest industry metrics, and the numbers tell the tourism story. The ongoing strength of our visitation prove that Los Angeles and its huge number and diversity of sights, landscapes, attractions, hotels, restaurants and activities, remains one of the greatest destinations in the world. LA ranks fourth in the United States in overnight visitors, and total visitation to Los Angeles hit a record 41.4 million in 2012. This year another visitation record is projected: 42 million.

The power of tourism as a driver of our economy can’t be understated. Total visitor spending exceeded $16 billion in 2012 with a total economic benefit of $30.5 billion. Tourism is also crucial to helping city, county and state governments provide the many services we all depend on, including public safety and schools.

As our economy slowly recovers, the importance of tourism has emerged as one of the strongest job-creating sectors, supporting 324,000 jobs in LA County in 2012 and creating 10,000 new jobs, more than any other industry in the area. Every industry worker is an ambassador of Los Angeles, and National Travel and Tourism Week (May 5-12) is a great opportunity for us to express our gratitude and to celebrate everyone’s tremendous contributions in keeping our tourism community thriving.

Increasingly, a driving force behind the strength of our industry is the continued visitation growth from China. China is our fastest growing international market, and in 2012 it became our No. 1 overseas market. Los Angeles welcomed more than 460,000 travelers from China, a stunning 35.5% increase over the previous year.

LA is also the most visited U.S. destination by Chinese travelers. We  are forecasted to welcome nearly 100,000 more international travelers in 2013, 70% of whom will be Chinese visitors. Mayor Villaraigosa led the effort to open our Beijing office in 2006, a move that was instrumental in helping us ultimately capture the largest U.S. destination share of Chinese travelers to date. LA was proud to be the first city to open an office in China then, and today, we are still the only city in the WORLD licensed to have a tourism office in China.

Because our leadership position is one we intend to keep and to develop even further, I recently joined Governor Brown on his trade mission to China, and I spent time in Beijing and Shanghai. The insights gained from this trip about the various segments of Chinese travelers, their travel planning patterns and their travel challenges are now helping us shape the future direction of our sales and marketing efforts in China.

There is an exciting opportunity for LA in this market, especially through our leadership role on the Visit California China Task Force. You’ll be hearing much more from us in the coming weeks and months about our China initiatives and how you can not only benefit from these efforts but play a role in them.

We’ll be sharing some of our China plans at our National Travel & Tourism Week breakfast on Tuesday, May 7 from 8 – 10 a.m. at the Center at the Cathedral in Downtown. I look forward to seeing you there.

There is much to celebrate in our industry on May 7 and many exciting new developments and achievements ahead this year.

With best wishes,

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Ernest Wooden, Jr.
President and CEO
Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board