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Tuesday, Dec 6, 2022
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Tourism Shines

The devaluation of the U.S. dollar brings to mind a series of negatives, from foreclosures to bankruptcies, to the dreaded R word: recession. But the dollar’s falling value might yield some positives in Southern California, specifically in giving the region’s tourism industry a boost. In the San Fernando Valley, hoteliers are already preparing to receive more international tourists, bent on exploiting an advantageous exchange rate. Jay Aldrich, professor of hospitality and tourism at California State University, Northridge, said that the Valley has already seen a spike in visitors from other countries. “International tourism is already up quite a bit because of the devaluation of the dollar,” he said. “For people from Europe and Asia, it’s a real bargain to come here now to dine and shop and play. The international market has increased like three or four percent.” Dan Mishell, director of research for the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, welcomes more tourists from international locales but is saddened that the jump in tourism can be attributed, in part, to the diminishing dollar. “A determining factor on long-term travel is value,” he said. “It is sort of bittersweet. We’re suffering economically in the domestic market, but, because that brings in visitors, that’s good for tourism.” Tourism is a resilient industry, according to LACVB Senior Vice President of Marketing Patti MacJennett. “Tourism as an economic driver is fairly stable,” she explained. “Since 2001, when international tourism declined after Sept. 11, we saw growth in the domestic market. Now, we’re seeing growth in the international market.” MacJennett said that Los Angeles receives more international tourists from Mexico than any other country. Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan and Australia follow. Along with Los Angeles World Airports, LACVB promotes the Los Angeles area internationally in offices in Tokyo, London and Beijing. “International tourism in Los Angeles plays a very important role. It accounts for a fifth, or 19 to 20 percent, of total overnight visitors,” MacJennet said. Last year the LACVB estimates that international tourism brought in $14.2 billion. This year the agency expects that number to go up to $15 billion, based on forecasts from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Travel Industry Association. Foreign tourism is particularly important in Los Angeles County because it accounts for nearly a third, or 33 percent, of total visitor spending, MacJennet said. “When you look at the big numbers, 25 million [international] visitors contribute to L.A. County about $15 billion,” she said. “There’s a significant economic impact from tourism.” The San Fernando Valley is of particular appeal to international visitors because it offers a diverse mix of hotel products, appealing to international travelers on all types of budgets, MacJennet said. The Valley also has tourist attractions, with Warner Brothers Studios and the San Fernando Mission being among the most popular. But, arguably, the biggest tourist draws in the Valley are its theme parks, Universal Studios and Six Flags Magic Mountain. Mishell said that about 44 percent of visitors to Los Angeles report visiting a theme park during their trip. Moreover, MacJennet continued, “Historically, across the country, in cities that have theme parks or attractions, such as Universal Studios, you’ll find that when a new ride is added, it positively impacts tourism numbers.” Accordingly, the LACVB believes that the opening of the new Simpsons ride at Universal Studios will be a high point. “That is an attraction that is internationally recognized,” MacJennett said. “The fact that it’s not only a theme park but a working studio has great appeal.” As for Magic Mountain, new attractions are in store that will be a plus for the Valley as well, MacJennet said. Six Flags Magic Mountain spokeswoman Sue Carpenter believes that the summer re-launch of its $10 million thrill ride X2, the park’s most popular coaster, will attract more visitors. And, for children, Magic Mountain has developed an area called Thomas Town, inspired by the well-known Thomas the Tank Engine character. Because the theme park has more of a domestic appeal than the world-renowned Universal Studios, it doesn’t track the numbers of international tourists who visit. But Carpenter said that most of Magic Mountain’s foreign guests hail from Europe. “We haven’t really seen a measurable increase or decrease in the number of international tourists,” she said. However, if one of the 44 percent of tourists who report visiting theme parks during their time here happens to be in the area, “We are the place to go,” Carpenter stressed. “We are the thrill capital here. We have the best thrill coasters.”

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