LA makes a pitch to the 'cultured' tourist

Foreign tourism to LA is forecast to hit a record high this year with 26.4 million visitors.

hollywood film 88 298 (photo credit: )
hollywood film 88 298
(photo credit: )
Accompanied by their mayor, the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau (LA INC.) traveled to Israel last week to promote their city's bustling tourism industry. "We are aligned to a great extent with New York and other major cities because of all the cultural attractions that we have," Mark S. Liberman, president and CEO of LA INC., told The Jerusalem Post. One of these attractions is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and with the expansion of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM) - a new $56-million, three-story addition to the LACMA - LA hopes to bolster its standing among culture-seeking visitors. Among these in 2007 were some 42,000 Israelis. "There are an increasing number of visitors that are coming from Israel to Los Angeles," said Liberman. Foreign tourism to LA is forecast to hit a record high this year with 26.4 million visitors, a two percent increase over last year's volume, the city said. Los Angeles World Airports (LAX) has seen a rise in new international service, with over eight airlines announcing new nonstop trips in the last year. In response to the increase, LAX has undertaken a $735m. project that will expand their international terminal to provide for foreign travelers, who currently account for 53 percent of all LAX passengers. Patti MacJennett, LA INC.'s senior vice president of marketing, said that with a city as large as Los Angeles, a challenge lies in showing tourists the extent of LA's offerings. "We look at it the way visitors look at a destination," MacJennett said. "We know where the borders start and stop but the visitors don't." Downtown Los Angeles, an area once extremely unpopular with tourists, is undergoing a complete transformation into a one-stop shop for arts, sports, nightlife, and dining. A new sports and entertainment district, named "LA Live," is currently being constructed in the heart of downtown LA. The district includes the Grammy Museum, Club Nokia, and a Lucky Strike bowling ally as well as 10 restaurants, including one with a new concept by Wolfgang Puck, New York-based Rosa Mexicana, and Katsuya. When completed, the district is expected to draw more than 13.5 million visitors annually. Areas already known for their tourist appeal are being reinvented as well. By 2010, the Kodak Theater, current home to the Academy Awards, will be the home of a new Cirque de Soleil show. Despite a large fire that devastated parts of Universal Studio's longstanding attractions earlier this month, a new ride based on the high-grossing animated film, The Simpsons, has also done its part to attract tourists from afar. Opened in May, The Simpsons ride is the largest ride investment in over 10 years. While most travelers correlate Napa with the California wine industry, Santa Barbara, only an hour and a half from LA, provides a wine lover with an ample taste of reds and whites. For those that want to avoid braving the LA traffic on their own, public transportation has recently seen significant improvements. The ongoing expansion of the LA Metro has made the commute from downtown to Hollywood more convenient, also offering service to less central tourist destinations such as Pasadena and Long Beach. Beginning this summer, Starline Tours will also be expanding service of their "Hop On, Hop Off" loop to include downtown and Beach Cities. Liberman said that since LA is widely regarded as a "pop culture city," promoting its changing face is never too difficult. "When you have as powerful a brand as we do," Liberman said, "people are aware of the things that are changing."