Tourists in Los Angeles County pumped a record $22.7 billion into the local economy

Silvestre Llobet and his wife, Elena Domenech, are photographed by their son, Alejandro Llobet, left, under the Hollywood sign on September 26, 2013, in the Beachwood Canyon area of Los Angeles, Calif. (Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Caption
Silvestre Llobet and his wife, Elena Domenech, are photographed by their son, Alejandro Llobet, left, under the Hollywood sign on September 26, 2013, in the Beachwood Canyon area of Los Angeles, Calif. (Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Credit: Gary Friedman

Credit: Gary Friedman

LOS ANGELES — A record-setting pace of tourists visiting Los Angeles County injected $22.7 billion into the local economy last year, countering fears that a strong dollar and tough rhetoric from the White House might scare off international tourists.

The county hosted 41.2 million domestic visitors and 7.3 million international visitors in 2017, a 2.6 percent increase over 2016 — marking the seventh straight year of new highs, according to the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention board.

Economists estimate the $22.7 billion of direct spending by visitors generated an overall economic impact of $34.9 billion when calculating in the ripple effect on purchases of other goods and services. The direct spending total represented a 3.9 percent increase over 2017, according to the tourism board.

“We’re breaking tourism records year after year, because Los Angeles has always been a place that welcomes the world,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has set a goal of drawing at least 50 million tourists a year.

The rise in visitors coincides with the end of the recession in the U.S. and the strong economic recovery in the U.S. Experts also attribute the increase in travel spending partly to low air fares — thanks to relatively cheap fuel costs — and investments in Los Angeles-area tourists attractions, such as the opening in 2016 of the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion at Universal Studios Hollywood.

To take advantage of the growth, the hotel industry in Los Angeles County has been on a building spree, with at least 700 hotel rooms now under construction.

But tourism industry leaders have expressed fear that President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric and efforts to ban travel from several countries might send the message that the U.S. does not welcome foreign visitors.

Industry experts also say they worry that the growing strength of the U.S. dollar against other foreign currencies is making vacations in the U.S. more expensive for some foreign travelers.

In response to such concerns, the U.S. Travel Assn., a trade group for the country’s travel industry, has launched a coalition with other U.S. industries and travel groups, called “Visit the U.S.A.,” to send a message that the country welcomes international visitors.