This week the Los Angeles Times reported that L.A. attracted a record number of tourists in 2012. More than 41.4 million out-of-town visitors came to our city for business, pleasure and everything in between – that’s about a million more visitors than in 2011. According to the Times piece, L.A.’s hotel occupancy rate in 2012 broke its pre-recession record, reaching 75.4 percent (the previous high was 75.1 percent in 2006).
Economic turnaround for tourism could be very good news for our city as a whole, because tourism is big business in Los Angeles – really big. Every year, tourism pumps more than $15 billion into our local economy. The tens of millions of business travelers, convention-goers and international and domestic visitors who come to Los Angeles make hospitality a primary economic engine for our city. It’s a simple formula: When visitors come to Los Angeles they spend their money in Los Angeles.
A June 4 Los Angeles Times article reported that hotel rates for business travelers in North America surged 9.3 percent in April, coming within 3 percent of the peak pre-recession rates in fall 2008. Rates for leisure travelers also rose 7.3 percent. The report also indicated that rates will continue to increase as demand continues to rise. This is a big deal because it means travel (both leisure and business) is heading in a positive direction since the 2008 recession hit. A city like Los Angeles – that hosted a record 26.9 million visitors last year – has a great opportunity to capture this rise in tourism. As the number one employer in L.A. County, home to pristine beaches, year-round beautiful weather and other attractions, tourism is poised to be one of the primary sectors that will lead Los Angeles out of the recession.
However, Los Angeles has some major work to do to be a leader in tourism and to develop a sustainable model that equally benefits the industry,