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Southland Tourism Expected to Rise 5% : Falling Dollar Will Lure Foreign Visitors, Bureau Official Says

December 17, 1987|NANCY RIVERA BROOKS | Times Staff Writer

Tourism officials are predicting a 5% increase in visitors to Southern California next year, due partly to a surge in travel from abroad.

"The falling dollar has appreciably helped us with the foreign market," said James W. Hurst, executive vice president of the Greater Los Angeles Visitors & Convention Bureau. "You're going to see an awful lot of people trying to spend lire and francs and pounds here and trying to read a menu."

A 40% increase in foreign visitors is expected nationwide next year, and Los Angeles is expected to attract a fourth of them, Emmett C. McGaughey, newly elected president of the bureau, told the agency's recent annual meeting.

In 1986, Los Angeles attracted 48.8 million visitors, who spent an estimated $12.3 billion, said McGaughey, chairman of Dailey International Group. "Next year our goal is to up that by 5%. . . . It's doable."

Susan Cox, director of public relations for the bureau, said an increase of 3% to 5% is considered a good year. The 1986 visitor count represented a 6% increase over 1985, while tourist spending was up an estimated 19.4% from 1985.

In the first nine months of this year, 39.4 million people visited Los Angeles, up 3.3% from the same period last year. Spending totaled an estimated $10.2 billion, up 2%.

The volume of convention business is expected to pick up considerably once the expanded Los Angeles Convention Center is finished in 1992, Hurst said.

In the meantime, the Convention Center's booking policy has been changed to emphasize events that bring in spending delegates to hotels and restaurants, compared to the previous focus on consumer and trade shows, which make money for the exhibition hall but don't add to the business of downtown hotels and restaurants, he said.

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