You may have seen the report recently that said Los Angeles had 26.9 million overnight visitors last year, an all-time high.
That was an increase of 4.2 percent from the previous year, according to LA Inc., the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau. More international tourists (7 percent) as well as Americans (2 percent) came here. Why? Well, the economy’s improving, sure, but LA Inc. pointed out that more people chose to come here partly because of L.A.’s improved portfolio of attractions.
Tourists are nice, but business travelers are better (they spend more) and conventioneers are best (they spend more than tourists and stay longer than business travelers). And it’s in the convention area where Los Angeles lags; this city shows up somewhere in the teens in national rankings of biggest convention cities.
It shouldn’t be that way. L.A.’s fine weather in the fall and spring, when most conventions are held, makes it a natural convention city. This area’s biggest convention center, the one downtown, is in a far more alluring neighborhood since L.A. Live got built. And that improved portfolio of attractions makes Los Angeles a more interesting destination.
Now, if Anschutz Entertainment Group gets its way, the Convention Center will be reoriented into a more functional space. And if a National Football League stadium gets built between L.A. Live and the Convention Center, more hotels surely will follow. That will help create a virtuous cycle of more conventions, leading to more hotel rooms, leading to more conventions, leading to more business.
The City Council has an interesting and rare opportunity in front of it. AEG’s proposal appears to offer the city a low-cost way to elevate its standing as a convention city. Of course, the City Council members should make sure the taxpayers are getting a sound deal. But they should not fumble away this opportunity.
Maybe, just maybe, in a half-dozen years or so, we will look back on that record number of visitors – 26.9 million – and scoff at how paltry that figure seems.