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Tourism Expected to Gain in Southland

October 30, 1985|NANCY RIVERA | Times Staff Writer

Tourism in Southern California is expected to increase about 3% during the rest of this year and the first half of 1986, thanks to the declining strength of the dollar against foreign currencies and an aggressive marketing campaign by the Greater Los Angeles Visitors and Convention Bureau, the agency's executive vice president said Tuesday.

"There's a pent-up demand to come to the United States both in the Far East and in Europe," James Hurst said in a interview following the group's annual meeting. "It's all coming together with the reduction of the dollar."

During the bureau's fiscal year, which ended June 30, Los Angeles had 43.2 million visitors who spent slightly more than $9 billion. Although the number of visitors during that period, which included the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, increased 3.2%, spending by tourists was little changed from the previous 12 months.

"We expected to have a different level of tourism here during the Olympics," Hurst said. "They were here to see the events; they weren't here to shop or go to restaurants.

"What the Olympics did for us was to elevate the image of Los Angeles all over the world to the point where people, when we stage events, want to go to see us and not our competitors," Hurst said.

With the Olympics as a sales tool, the bureau, a nonprofit organization that promotes tourism and conventions in Southern California, stepped up its domestic and international marketing efforts, he said.

The city's convention business will take a hefty jump in the current fiscal year from last fiscal year's depressed levels, he predicted. Last year's convention business was adversely affected because the Los Angeles Convention Center was unavailable for conventions during the two months that it was used as an Olympic press center.

The Greater Los Angeles Visitors and Convention Bureau is predicting that 300 conventions will be held during the 1985-86 fiscal year, attracting slightly more than 1 million delegates who will spend an estimated $508 million. For the 12 months ended June 30, Los Angeles had 306 meetings attracting 732,286 delegates who spent $340 million.

Outgoing bureau President Joseph Woodard, speaking at the annual meeting, said that it is "vitally important" to expand the Los Angeles Convention Center if the city is to attract conventions.

"Los Angeles, the second-largest city in the nation, ranks 18th in the nation in the size of convention centers," said Woodard, who is vice president of Landmark Land Co. "Millions of dollars are being lost each year due to our inability to provide adequate exhibit space and meeting space."

A report urging a $350-million expansion of the Los Angeles Convention Center currently is being considered by various City Council committees.

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