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CALIFORNIA

California Tourism Office to Open in Beverly Center

March 09, 2000|STEPHEN GREGORY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The tony Beverly Center in Los Angeles today will welcome its newest tenant. But it isn't a hip clothier, chic restaurant or cutting-edge electronics outlet.

It's a public-private tourism promotion office known as a California Welcome Center, where travelers can seek help in planning their excursions of the Golden State. It may not sound glamorous, but its potential economic impact may more than make up for its lack of glitter.

Mall operators hope the office's presence will significantly boost visits by out-of-town shoppers who on average spend more than their in-town counterparts.

Detroit-based Taubman Co., which owns the Beverly Center, ponied up roughly $500,000 to design and build the center, which is at street level near the Hard Rock Cafe on Beverly Boulevard. Taubman also is responsible for the center's operating budget.

In exchange, the Beverly Center will be featured in state-funded promotional material touting travel in California. In addition, the shopping center will be listed on the state's tourism Web site and will appear on freeway and street signs.

Beverly Center officials approached state authorities with the idea in July 1998, said mall spokeswoman Shoshana Puccia, because nearly one in three visitors to the shopping center are out-of-town travelers. "We are a very big destination for tourists," she said.

The center, which is one of six statewide, should also be a boost for the region's economy, said Tom Lease, national programs manager for the state Division of Tourism.

In a recent study of two previously established welcome centers--one in San Francisco, the other in rural Northern California--Lease's office found that tourists who had visited the information offices stayed in the area longer, and presumably spent more money, than they had originally planned.

Amenities at the Beverly Center's welcome site include 42-inch screens displaying videos on local and statewide attractions, e-mail access, a help phone in 140 languages, and staff assistance in finding hotel rooms and securing tickets to local attractions.

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