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'Really Good Summer' Predicted : Terrorism May Aid Tourism in Westside

June 01, 1986|BARBARA BAIRD | Times Staff Writer

The Westside is expected to attract an especially large number of tourists this year because terrorism is putting a damper on travel abroad and lower gasoline prices are encouraging domestic travel, local tourism officials believe.

This will add to the Westside's traditional appeal as a tourist destination, they said. Visitors are especially drawn here to see Santa Monica's beaches and pier, Beverly Hills' opulent shops and residences, and Malibu's spectacular coastline.

"A lot of people are coming here from the East Coast who ordinarily would have gone to Europe," said Joan Barton, marketing director for the Beverly Hills Visitors Bureau. "Our hotels are getting reservations from groups that otherwise would have gone abroad."

Elegant Rodeo Drive

Barton said that Rodeo Drive, an elegant street of shops offering an array of luxury merchandise, is among the top tourist attractions in Southern California. It is ranked high, along with Disneyland and Universal's movie studio tours. "Everybody wants to see Beverly Hills," Barton said. "We are expecting a really good summer."

Beverly Moore, executive director of the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the city's hotels are expecting an occupancy rate of 90% or more, 5% to 7% higher than last year.

She attributed the heavy bookings in Santa Monica partly to travelers' fears of terrorism abroad and to an influx of Europeans expected because currency exchange rates are favorable for them. This year, for example, a French traveler would need to pay only about 6 francs to buy $1, compared to 10 francs last year, she said.

Offerings Are Sold Out

"One German tour operator told me he doesn't have enough tour products for his (European) clients," she said. The travel company has sold out its offerings even at the beginning and end of the tourist season, which usually are less heavily traveled times, she said.

Santa Monica traditionally has been attractive to tourists because of its seaside location and its many restaurants--more than 400 in the city's eight square miles, Moore said.

Hotel occupancy rates in Santa Monica are "well above the area average," she said. Santa Monica hotels last year averaged 80% occupancy, compared to 70% for Los Angeles countywide, she said.

Hotel rooms in Santa Monica this year cost an average of $83, compared to $55 in Hollywood or Culver City, $62 in Pasadena and $80 in downtown Los Angeles, according to Moore.

Rooms in Beverly Hills are the most expensive, averaging $109, she reported.

Kay Briski, executive director of the Culver City Convention and Visitors Bureau, said her city primarily attracts business travelers but that it is working with travel agents to encourage more tourists to stay in Culver City.

Businessmen find Culver City attractive because it is a central location with easy access to Los Angeles International Airport, she said.

The bureau has conducted a campaign to lure convention business to Culver City, she said, and according to a recent study, nearly three times as many convention rooms were booked in the second half of 1985 (13,659) as for the same period in 1984 (4,907). The study estimated that room bookings will increase again to 22,527 for the first half of 1986, up from 12,356 for the same period in 1985.

Briski said Culver City hotels did well during the 1984 Olympics because the city "was extremely well-located for many of the venues" and very accessible to freeways."

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