South Coast Plaza is the mall with it all. And now at least one organization ranks it up there with Mt. Rushmore, the Watts Towers and Gilley's in Pasadena, Texas.
The Travel Industry Association of America has awarded the Costa Mesa shopping center a special award for excellence in travel marketing--the first time the trade group has ever recognized a mall as a tourist attraction.
What snared South Coast's award was the mall's 2-year-old program of busing in tourists from 38 area hotels.
The $5 round-trip ride is subsidized by the mall. And so far, the investment has paid off. Since the program started, South Coast's "visitor market base" of shoppers who live more than 250 miles away has grown from less than 4% of all patrons to more than 15%, said Werner Escher, a South Coast spokesman.
"It really stamps us as a national tourist attraction," Escher said.