Los Angeles has doubled its presence in China.
In hopes of welcoming more big-spending foreign visitors, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Monday that the city has opened a tourism office in Shanghai, the second for Los Angeles in China.
To promote trade and travel to L.A., the mayor also announced plans to visit Beijing this month. He will travel with executives from the Port of Los Angeles, Los Angeles World Airports, and the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board on May 26-29.
Villaraigosa called trade and tourism “the engines of L.A.’s economy.”
Los Angeles set a record with 41.4 million overnight visitors in 2012, and tourism officials say they hope the mayor’s efforts can help the city reach a goal of 50 million tourists a year by 2020.
“If we do what we should do, our share of the Chinese tourism market could be much higher,” said Ernest Wooden, Jr., the new head of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board.
China’s relatively strong economy and burgeoning middle class have paid off for Los Angeles. China is the city’s top trading partner, with $132 billion in Chinese goods coming into Los Angeles and $27.1 billion in exports in 2012, according to the city.
Tourism from China also leads all other overseas countries for Los Angeles, with 460,000 visitors in 2012, a 35.5% increase over the previous year. That number is expected to grow by 70,000 visitors by the end of 2013, city officials said.
“These people are coming here like nobody else,” Villaraigosa said in an interview.
Chinese tourists spend an average of $1,326 per visit to the city, more than any other foreign travelers except those from Japan, who spend $1,761 per visit but visit in much smaller numbers. In 2012, Los Angeles welcomed 290,000 Japanese visitors, nearly the same as the previous year.
To increase trade and tourism with China, Los Angeles became the first U.S. city to open a tourism office in Beijing in 2006.
Another key to welcoming Chinese tourists, Villaraigosa said, is modernizing the international terminal at Los Angeles International Airport and scheduling more direct flights from China. LAX now serves six daily nonstop flights from China.
Wooden agreed. “We’ve got to increase the direct flights to Los Angeles,” he said. “They can’t swim here.”
(c)2013 the Los Angeles Times. Distributed by MCT Information Services.