CITYWIDE – Despite a slight decline in visitors in 2013, tourists stayed longer and spent more, according to the Santa Monica Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB).
On Friday, the CVB hosted its fifth annual Travel and Tourism Summit, releasing loads of data about tourism in 2013.
Last year, 7,298,857 tourists spent $1.63 billion in the city by the sea. It was 12,000 fewer tourists than in 2012, a marginal decline, but spending increased 6.8 percent.
The decline was largely due to a 6.2 percent drop in international visitors. The 3.9 million international tourists who did come made up for the loss: They spent nearly 8 percent more than the international tourists the year before.
This is all in keeping with one of the major goals of the CVB, which is to “drive balanced demand.”
“We’re not about bringing more people here,” said CVB President and CEO Misti Kerns. “We’re about getting people to stay longer that are here, and getting day visitors to stay overnight.”
All the lengths of stay were up from 2012. The average overall time spent in the city by the over 7 million visitors was more than a day and a half. Hotel guests spent and average of four nights in the city.
“Congratulations to the hotels because that is not an easy feat to do while you’re increasing your rates,” Kerns said.
The transient occupancy tax, or hotel bed tax, generated $42.3 million for City Hall, a 6.9 percent increase from last year.
Shopping made up more than a third of all the spending – totaling more than half a billion dollars. That category increased by 7.6 percent in 2013.
“I’m sure Santa Monica Place had a bit to do with that,” Kerns said.
Spas made the largest gain, bringing in $61.8 million, up by 51 percent.
Visitors’ average household income dropped by $4,300 to $86,500 in 2013 but they spent, on average, about $1.50 more: $143.32.
Employment generated by tourism is up 5.8 percent.
“That’s 12,908 jobs that can not be exported,” Kerns said.
The CVB also reviewed areas that they plan to improve. One member of the Santa Monica tourism community asked for more connections to the beach.
“Our beach is terribly underutilized,” they said, according to CVB’s report. “We need CVB to lead the discussion to ensure that Santa Monica is a top destination.”
Focus groups in 17 different international markets found that some potential visitors want shuttles to take them around Santa Monica and to different communities, said Kim Baker, vice president of marketing at the CVB.
Others want better connectivity with the Los Angeles International Airport.
In September, Santa Monica is scheduled to get a Flyaway Bus, which will take residents and visitors between the Civic Center and their LAX terminal.