Santa Monica Pier (File photo)

The local tourism industry continued to grow in 2017, with 8.7 million visitors spending an average of 1.36 days in Santa Monica, a 3.6 percent increase over 2016. Visitor spending increased five percent, nearing the $2 billion mark, with the average visitor spending $166 a day, according to statistics provided by Santa Monica Travel and Tourism (SMTT).

“International visitation to Santa Monica grew by 12 percent last year…research continually shows that international visitors are likely to stay longer at a destination, they spend more money and they, unlike us in California, use public transportation,” said SMTT’s President and CEO Misti Kerns. “To get around Santa Monica they don’t need a car.”

SMTT found 83 percent of visitors walked to get around Santa Monica once they arrived, a nearly 30 percent increase from 2010. International visitors make up about half the tourism market, with 13.9 percent coming from Australia, 8.3 percent from England, and 5.9 percent from Scandinavia. It’s estimated an SMTT campaign in Australia alone generated 1,144 hotel bookings and $419,848 in revenue.

Tourism industry leaders had worried global politics could decrease the number of people vacationing in the United States. Last year, global approval of U.S. leadership under President Donald Trump hit a historical low of 30 percent, according to Gallup.

“Despite that uncertainty, Santa Monica continues to thrive,” Kerns said. In fact, travel to the entire state expanded in 2017, bringing in $10.9 billion in tax revenue.

“Tourism brings economic prosperity to every region in California,” said the CEO of Visit California Caroline Beteta, who addressed local leaders at an event at the Jonathan Club Wednesday.

Despite receiving more tourists, Santa Monica was not immune from the “retail apocalypse” that has dented sales at brick-and-mortar stores across the United States. Retail sales tax revenue decreased 2.5 percent here in 2017, to $12.1 million.

Most of the local tourists were day visitors, with only about nine percent of visitors staying in Santa Monica hotels. Overnight guests accounted for about fifty percent of the spending, however, staying an average of 3 days and spending about $400 per day. Those visitors generated $54 million in hotel tax revenue to the city, up 6.7 percent from 2016.

Kerns said the local tourism industry supports about 13,000 jobs in Santa Monica.

SMTT is a non-profit organization that promotes Santa Monica as a travel destination. It has offices in key feeder markets like Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and India.

Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press