The Third Street Promenade (File photo)

Tourism continues to anchor the local economy, according to recently released figures from the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Industry officials gathered in Santa Monica last week to hear from the CVB as part of their annual Travel & Tourism Summit.

“The story for 2014 is again, a healthy tourism industry producing higher and record volume, spending, taxes and tourism supported jobs,” said the CVB in a statement.

The event included the release of tourism facts and figures from the last year. The 2014 total visitor volume increased to 7.9 million from 7.3 million in 2013. Of that, 6.8 million were Day Visitors, 738,800 were hotel guests and 307,600 stayed in other lodging. While length of stay dropped slightly from 1.56 days to 1.44 days. The increase in volume was enough to increase total visitor days by about 4 percent.

In 2014, visitor spending increased by about 5.8 percent to $1.72 billion. Overnight visitors account for about 13 percent of the total but produced 69 percent of total revenue. The spending supports 13,700 local jobs. According to CVB numbers, each Santa Monica household would have to pay an additional $1,209 to cover the cost of city services if tourism dollars were removed from the budget.

Domestic visitors came from California (33 percent), New York (7.8 percent), Nevada (6 percent), Texas (5.7 percent), Arizona (5.3 percent), Illinois (4.9 percent), Florida (3.8 percent), Washington (3 percent), Colorado (2.1 percent), Massachusetts (1.9 percent) and Georgia (1.8 percent). The top 12 domestic sources account for 77.2 percent of all domestic visitors.

Internationally the top 12 sources provided 72.6 percent of the total visitors. The largest sources were Australia/New Zealand (17.8 percent), England (10.1 percent), Mexico (7.8 percent), Western Canada (6.4 percent), Germany (5.4 percent), France (4.5 percent), Eastern Canada (3.8 percent), Other North/Central America (3.7 percent), Japan (3.6 percent), Scandinavia (3.3 percent), Italy (3.2 percent) and Brazil (2.9 percent).

The report identified China and India as emerging markets for tourism.

China is California’s largest international arrivals market and according to the report, key characteristics of the Chinese market include greater spending on souvenirs, more utilization of credit cards, longer stays in California and being more likely to be first time visitors.

According to the report, changes in tourist and business visas have increased the Indian tourism market. Key characteristics of the Indian traveler include utilizing corporate travel departments, extension of vacations to visit friends/family and shorter planning processes.

The report identifies Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions as a potential growth area. The CVB will a dedicated meetings and advisory board in 2016. The new board will use data gathered from local hotels to identify Santa Monica’s strengths, weaknesses and where the city fits amongst competition. That information will be released next year as the CVB develops programs to cater to the meeting market.

The CVB cited research from Longwoods International, showing that tourism advertising also improves consumer perceptions of a city and/or state as a good place to live, start a career, attend college, start a business, and retire.

Officials said the conclusion is that destinations that that outperform their peers in attracting visitors tend to outperform in the overall economy.

“We are fortunate to live in such a sought-after destination. The funds generated by tourism in Santa Monica help support essential city services,” said Mayor Kevin McKeown. “The level of services our city is able to provide in our schools, parks, public transportation, police and fire departments stem from a healthy economy, where tourism plays a significant role.”

CVB President and CEO Misti Kerns said her job is simple, to help maintain economic vitality and services in the city.

“The figures revealed here today clearly indicate that, two years into our five-year strategic plan, we are harnessing our destination’s ability to generate the critical tourism jobs and dollars required to be a true economic engine for the city,” she said.

Spirit Award

The event included the presentation of the Thelma Parks Spirit Award. This year, Downtown Santa Monica Ambassador Derek Davis was recognized for working “tirelessly to keep the Downtown area and parking structures clean so that Santa Monica remains a beautiful place to live, work and visit.”

Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...

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