Awards at the SMTT show


After years of being dampened by the pandemic, tourism is on the rise in Santa Monica.

After years of being dampened by the pandemic, tourism is on the rise in Santa Monica.

Leaders in the tourism industry spoke on the matter at Santa Monica Travel and Tourism’s 14th annual summit this week which was attended by many local business owners, government officials and other community members.

“Tourism definitely has bounced back,” said Caroline Beteta, the president and CEO of Visit California.

She outlined marketing efforts by Visit California to draw people to the state and also highlighted statistics showing that visitor spending and tax revenue from tourism in California are nearing pre-pandemic levels.

“California is definitely recovering and exceeding those numbers,” Beteta said, adding that Los Angeles County is showing similar trends.

On the local level in Santa Monica, Lauren Schlau, a consultant who has done market research and analysis for the City, shared that the number of visitors nearly doubled last year to a total of approximately 5,320,500 and that annual spending by tourists went up almost 30% to reach $961,711,800.

The percentage of international visitors also increased from 9.2% in 2021 to 21% in 2022, however is still below the 51% that was seen in 2019 prior to the pandemic. Schlau said an overall decrease in international travel has been especially impactful for Santa Monica.

“Santa Monica, unlike the state, and unlike even the county of Los Angeles, Santa Monica is highly dependent on international travelers, in the past it has run roughly about 50% a year of share of total visitation,” she said. “That impacts everything that happens in the destination because international visitors tend to stay more, to stay overnight, they do more activities in the area, they spend more time here and as a consequence, they spend more money here.”

She added that lodging is the largest source of revenue from tourism in the city, making up nearly half of total visitor spending at $492,522,274 in 2022.

City Manager David White says this makes having a quality selection of hotels especially important for the city and highlighted several new hotels and ongoing renovation and rebranding projects including The Pierside, The Georgian, The Beacon by Sonder and the transition of the former Loews Hotel to the Regent Santa Monica.

“We understand the value of these investments in the hotel sector in our downtown and throughout our City,” he said. “And we are committed to nurturing them by doing everything we can to maintain the city’s infrastructure to keep the streets and public spaces clean, safe and attractive, and to ensure that all residents and visitors to our hotels, restaurants and retailers feel welcome and safe.”

Santa Monica Mayor Gleam Davis also spoke at the event about the value of tourism for the local economy.

“If we didn’t have tourism in Santa Monica, every household in Santa Monica would have to contribute 1,400 more dollars to our economy,” she said. “So if you get annoyed when you see a tourist, take out your checkbook.”

Two awards were given out at the event to local restaurant owner and Michelin star chef Josiah Citrin and 42-year Fairmont Miramar Hotel employee Modesta Melchor for their work in the industry.

While Mayor Davis said that statistics and numbers are helpful in understanding trends and the state of tourism in the City, she said it’s individuals like these who help make the City into a desirable travel destination.

“Those numbers really don’t tell the story, what tells the story is the vibrancy on our streets,” she said. “When you walk down our streets and you see people, whether it’s on the Promenade or on the boardwalk, you know this is a fun, exciting place to be.”

For more information and statistics on tourism in Santa Monica visit:

Grace Adams is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University where she studied Spanish and journalism. She holds a Master’s degree in investigative journalism from City, University of London. She has experience...