A bright spot in the local economy — tourism — continues to generate big numbers for Los Angeles County's hotels, restaurants and other hospitality businesses.
Tourists spent $16.4 billion in 2012, most of it on lodging, food and drinks, according to a study commissioned by the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board. By comparison, the group said, tourists spent $15.4 billion in 2011.
Tourism last year also generated more than $2 billion in state and local taxes, according to the study by Los Angeles economics research firm Micronomics.
Tourism has been on the rise for three years, with 41.4 million visitors to the county in 2012, a new record and a 2.5% increase over 2011.
But Los Angeles County is not unique in enjoying a surge in tourism.
Since early 2010, the travel, tourism and hospitality industries have added nearly 351,000 jobs nationwide, making up for three-quarters of the jobs that sector lost during the recession, according to the U.S. Travel Assn., a trade group for the tourism industry.
Still, the surge in tourism jobs nationally has slowed, from about 8,000 net jobs created per month in 2012 to 3,000 in January and 1,000 in February, according to the travel association.
"In general, the outlook is still fairly positive," said David Huether, senior vice president of research for the group.
In Southern California, tourism supported nearly 230,000 jobs last year, plus 95,000 jobs in related industries, according to the Micronomics study.
The impact of tourism spending in L.A. County is nearly doubled to $30.5 billion because of what economists call the multiplier effect, which represents how spending promotes more spending by business that are bolstered by the tourism.
Of the tourists visiting L.A. County last year, 85% were from the United States and 15% were from other countries. China became the nation's top overseas market for the first time in 2012, with 460,000 visitors, the study said.
Chinese tourists have a reputation for splurging while on vacation. Each spends an average of $2,652 per visit, compared with $1,209 per visit for all overseas visitors to California, according to federal statistics.