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DTLA developments contribute to LA's record-breaking tourism year

By Hayley Fox
Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2013, at 09:57AM
Flickr/David Jones

Downtown venues like the Nokia Theatre and Staples Center help attract tourists to L.A.

Los Angeles attracted a record 41.4 million visitors in 2012 -- a 2.5 percent increase over the 40.4 million visitors that came to L.A. in 2011. According to a report from the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board, direct visitor spending, hotel occupancy and hotel room nights sold set all-time highs last year as well.

The Los Angeles Times reports that experts attribute this surge in L.A. visitors to multiple factors, including big investments over the last decade in hotels, theaters and other attractions -- specifically in Hollywood and DTLA.

“When the LA tourism industry thrives, Los Angeles thrives," said Mayor Villaraigosa in a statement. "The tourism industry supports one in 10 jobs in LA and the revenues that come from its success go directly to the city services Angelenos rely on."

In 2012, Los Angeles sold more than 26 million hotel room nights, according to the tourism board, leading to $180 million in tax revenue for the city. Hotel development in DTLA has surged in recent years; from the 2010 opening of the upscale Ritz-Carlton and J.W. Marriott hotels, to the groundbreaking held last year for two new Marriott hotels near L.A. Live, and the announcement of an incoming Ace Hotel to the Broadway area.

And Downtown is attracting an increasing number of visitors to fill these hotels: Every year the L.A. Convention Center alone attracts over 2.5 million visitors for trade shows, exhibitions and conventions of all kind -- from Stan Lee's Comikaze to the Anime Expo. Many of these visitors need hotels to stay in, restaurants to eat in and attractions to visit.

In addition to hotels, L.A. Live has become an epicenter for tourism, featuring the Grammy Museum, concerts at the Nokia Theatre and the Staples' Center's never-ending list of events. The tourism board reports that over an action-packed four days in 2012, The Staples Center hosted a marathon of NBA and NHL games that attracted more than 120,000 people. Over the course of the rest of the year, the venue also hosted the Emmys, the X Games, the L.A. Film Festival and more.

Now with the incoming streetcar, visitors will have yet another way to circulate through Downtown's most tourist-friendly areas.

But it's not only the new and shiny things that attracts people to DTLA; according to the tourism board, Downtown is the largest government center outside of Washington, D.C. and it also has the largest historical theater district (Broadway) on the National Register of Historic Places.

Councilman José Huizar's "Bringing Back Broadway" campaign, which began in 2008, has been working to capitalize on this history and revitalize Broadway by attracting new retailers and restaurants (such as Umamicatessen) and working to bring many of the area's theaters back to life.

On the heels of last year's record-setting tourism numbers, the L.A. tourism board announced the launch of a new domestic branding campaign intended to promote spring and summer travel. Ramped up marketing efforts will also begin in Canada, the UK and Australia.

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