Skift Take

Like Egypt's pyramids and New York's Statue of Liberty, Hollywood's sign will hold its status as a tourist draw for decades to come.

The Hollywood Sign, a world-renowned tourist attraction, reached its 100th anniversary this month. Destination marketers everywhere can be inspired by how the landmark evolved from a generic real-estate ad in December 1923 to the quintessential symbol of Los Angeles.

The sign wasn’t made to be a landmark. When it was introduced, it read “Hollywoodland,” and was supposed to be a real estate promotion for merely 18 months.

“Even though it wasn’t intended to be permanent, it has since become recognized as LA’s global icon,” said Adam Burke, CEO and president of LA Tourism.

Today the Hollywood Sign Trust, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the Hollywood neighborhood community maintain the sign.

Hollywood: America’s International Bilboard

At international travel trade shows, anyone selling or representing LA often includes the sign in their promotion.

“The Hollywood Sign is always there,” said Dave Serino, founder and chief strategist for TwoSix Digital, a marketing agency.

For decades, travel marketers have used Hollywood as a stand-in for LA and its status as the entertainment capital. A 1961 travel poster from TWA that features the Hollywood Sign with spotlights recently sold for $5,000 at New York City’s Swann Auction Galleries.

Hollywood Sign as Photo Opp

Many tourists take photos with the sign in the background. “It is a bucket list item to get a photo with the Hollywood Sign,” Burke said.

It has “enormous” influence on an international traveler’s decision to visit the U.S., said Peter van Berkel, president of Travalco and chairman of the International Inbound Travel Association. He puts it in the top 10 of the U.S.’s most recognizable tourist attractions.

New experiences often pop up in LA to incorporate the sign, said Burke. Opened in 2021, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, for example, has a public terrace positioned to give guests stellar views of Hollywood.

Scene from the ceremony on December 8, 2023, to honor the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles. Photo credit: Bryan Mier.

Takeaways for Destination Marketers

Some lessons for other destinations to draw:

One appeal of the Hollywood Sign is that in an age of sharing digital visuals of your trip, it allows people to communicate to others that they truly experienced a place and got “inside” the experience.

If you have a surprisingly popular landmark at your destination, play it up. If you don’t have such a landmark, you may be able to address the same need for visitors by crafting your own.

Ottawa, for example, created a giant Ottawa sign in its main tourist market plaza that is gaining momentum as an attraction. The capital of the Netherlands did the same with a large sign that has the city’s tourism slogan “I am Amsterdam.”

Silent Anniversary Ceremony

On December 8, the Hollywood Sign received a quiet special ceremony out of respect for the nearby Hollywood neighborhood.

LA Tourism often encourages visitors to not try to view the sign from the neighborhood but from the nearby hiking and biking trails or rooftop bars, said Burke.


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Tags: destination marketing, los angeles, tourism

Photo credit: The Hollywood Sign is 100 years old now. It's one of America's top tourist attractions. De'Andre Bush / Unsplash

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