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L.A. Visitors Bureau Names New Chief

June 24, 2003|Elizabeth Kelly | Times Staff Writer

Mark Liberman, a former United Airlines executive, has been named president and chief executive of LA Inc., the Convention and Visitors Bureau, succeeding the late George Kirkland.

Liberman, 56, who was vice president of United's West Coast operations, steps in at a time of sharp decline in convention business.

The Convention Center has booked 16 major conventions for the year, the visitors bureau said. The city had 27 conventions last year and 35 in 2001.

Many blame the decline on the lack of hotel space within walking distance of the Los Angeles Convention Center.

"Obviously, it would be beneficial as we sell convention business to have a new hotel near the Convention Center," Liberman told The Times. "But we need to focus on what we have today, the wonderful properties we have in this city."

Liberman stressed that the Convention Center accounts for only 6% of the city's $12-billion tourism industry.

"The challenge is to make sure that we are turning over every stone here and doing everything possible to attract people outside of this city," he said.

Liberman takes over for Kirkland, who died this month. Kirkland had notified LA Inc.'s board in April that he had cancer. He had led the agency for more than 13 years.

The private, nonprofit Convention and Visitors Bureau receives $16 million a year in hotel bed taxes under a contract with the city.

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