LOS ANGELES — Attired in a "Three Men and a Baby" tuxedo, Tom Selleck's likeness was a summer hit at Buena Park's Movieland Wax Museum, and admissions from discount coupons and other special promotions rose.
Still, regular admissions tumbled and revenue fell about 10% at the attraction near Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm.
At Tag-Along Expeditions in Moab, Utah, fewer Californians rafted the Colorado River or trekked into Canyonlands National Park.
But Tag-Along's revenue rose 5% on solid bookings from eastern U.S. and European tourists drawn by thrills such as the 25-foot waves that crash through Cataract Canyon in the spring.
The exodus of businesses and middle-class Californians to less crowded, less expensive Western states has been one of the decade's more closely watched trends. It now appears some tourists are following.
A recent Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco study found tourism and travel sluggish in Southern California, slumping in Hawaii, but setting records in Idaho and Utah--patterns that mirror the West's overall economic trends.
"Robust economic conditions are aiding the travel and tourism industry of the intermountain regions," Fed economist Brian A. Cromwell said in his report. "Growing industries, such as computer software, are attracting significant conferences and meetings, which promote the areas to business travelers as tourist destinations."
California riots and slain Florida tourists also make an impression on would-be visitors, said Jeri Cartwright, a spokeswoman for Salt Lake City's Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"Meeting planners are asking about safety more often, and we're honestly able to say it's really safe downtown," she said. The city's convention bookings have set records for three consecutive years.
That's not to deny the still powerful magnetism of states that historically draw travelers. A survey from the Travel Industry Assn. of America found that 34% of last summer's travelers were headed for Florida, 31% to California and 21% to Hawaii, followed by Nevada, 14%, and New York, 10%.
"Everywhere I go, Southern California is a prime destination," said Harrison Price, a Torrance theme park consultant. "I think that rises above our fires, earthquakes, riots and floods, what have you--people from all over still want to come here.
"It's second to none as far as the aggregate quality of the experience," he said. "We've got every damn thing under the sun as well as access to the mountains, the ocean, swimming, water-skiing, surfing."
Still, hotel employment has dropped 8% in California as a whole--a loss of 15,000 jobs--since August, 1990, when the state's long economic downturn began. Many California residents are making more day trips and fewer overnight stops within the state, said John Poimiroo, California's director of tourism.
Likewise, the average stay for out-of-state visitors to Orange County, for instance, has dropped from about 3 1/2 days to 2 1/2 days, said Mark Edwards, general manager of the Movieland Wax Museum in Buena Park.
Those tourists may shorten their visits to Disneyland, but they won't skip it. Indeed, Disneyland reported a very good summer, though like other big theme parks it does not reveal exact attendance figures.
But Disneyland spent $100 million on Mickey's Toontown, its biggest new attraction in 20 years. Poimiroo noted that other major parks that did good summer business also had expensive new draws: "Back to the Future" at Universal Studios Hollywood, a dinosaur exhibit at Marine World in Northern California.
Knott's, with no new attractions, had a 2% drop in attendance. The impact was even greater at nearby, secondary attractions that feed on Knott's visitors: the wax museum, or Wild Bill's Western Dinner Extravaganza, where summer business fell more than 5%.
Poimiroo said one bright spot in California was water-related tourism. He noted that houseboat rental outfits, marinas and mountain areas had good seasons, mirroring interest throughout the West in outdoor recreation.
"I think people are coming to Idaho in particular to experience this Western fantasy--river rafting, horseback riding, four-wheel-drives into the forest," said William T. Reagan, general manager of the luxury Coeur d'Alene (Idaho) Resort, where revenue has risen yearly since it opened in 1986.
Robert Jones, president of Utah's Tag-Along Expeditions, said that even though revenue rose this year, economic uncertainty made last-minute bookings the rule among the 15,000 people taking guided trips.
"People waited and waited until they were sure they could afford it," he said.
Cromwell's Federal Reserve study noted that Los Angeles has recovered only slightly from the spring riots of 1992. Hotel occupancy in the city stood at 58.4% in May--barely above the 57.2% rate in May, 1992, the month after the looting, arson, assaults and slayings.
Overall, California's $54-billion travel industry probably eked out a slight gain over the summer, Poimiroo said.