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Santa Monica Tourism Saw Gains in 2011

The visitors bureau releases news about the health of the local tourism industry. There were 6.74 million visitors and nearly 13 percent more jobs last year than in 2010.

The Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau said Wednesday that more tourists were visiting Santa Monica in 2011, and were also spending more—a total of $1.39 billion.

More than 11,000 jobs at Santa Monica businesses were supported by tourism last year, a 12.9 percent increase from 2010, according to the bureau's latest economic impact survey.

The survey also found that bed taxes, called "transient occupancy taxes," or TOT for short, paid by Santa Monica hotels jumped 16 percent to $35 million, and sales tax revenue generated by visitor spending ballooned nearly 28 percent to $35.4 million. Last spring, the sales tax on purchases made in Santa Monica rose from 9.75 to 10.25 percent—the hike was projected to accrue an extra $12 million for Santa Monica each year.

Both revenues are pumped into the city's general fund, a catchall account that funds services such as public safety and parks and recreation. In total, visitors spent $1.39 billion in Santa Monica.

Compared to the year prior, international visitor volume increased by 4 percent in 2011, CEO, Misti Kerns said. She called it "an important increase" because international visitors stay longer, spend more money and are more likely to use public transportation.

Despite the good news, the percentage of international visitors compared to those travelling from around the United States has creeped down a bit since 2009 from 48 percent to 46. The total number of visitors in 2011 was 6.74 million.

A summary of the survey shows that the volume  U.S. visitors at  3.6  million exceeded 3.1  million  international  visitors  in  2011,  while  the  $743  million spent  by international  visitors  in  Santa  Monica,  again topped U.S. visitors' spending of $648 million. 

"We hope that the Obama administration's national strategy to boost international tourism by improving the visa process for international travelers and launching international marketing campaigns promoting the U.S. abroad will help Santa Monica grow that percentage moving forward," said bureau spokeswoman Kim Baker.

The results of the economic impact survey, conducted regularly since 1983, were released at the Third Annual Travel and Tourism Summit, held on the Convention and Visitor Bureau's 30th anniversary. The nonprofit was established to grow tourism revenues and to promote the city as a travel destination.

"Today we are celebrating just how far our industry has come," Kerns said Wednesday.

According to Kerns, in 1983, Santa Monica was home to five full-service hotels, the average visitor spent $31 per day and 42 percent of visitors traveled without cars. Today, Santa Monica boasts 15 full-service hotels, the average visitor spends $234 per day and 75 percent of Santa Monica hotel visitors don't use cars once they are here, she said.

"Tourism is a critical component in creating sustainable jobs...," Kerns said. While business is looking good, we must continue to promote and serve our visitors as they are a life line to our economic health."

There are currently proposals from developers to build three more hotels in Santa Monica, not including a proposed of the existing Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows at the corner of Ocean Avenue Wilshire Boulevard—.

The economic impact report was initially conducted every three years and is now prepared yearly. Researchers collect data about rates and occupancy from each hotel, conduct phone interviews with residents to determine how often they host out-of-towners and survey visitors quarterly in high traffic areas of the city.

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