Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board states that there was a 2.3 per cent year-on-year increase in visitors from the Middle East in 2016, compared to 2015. The destination has registered an increase of 6.3 per cent in new visitor spend, reveals its Regional Director–Europe and Middle East, Francine Sheridan to TravTalk.
Q How important is the Middle East market for LA?
The Gulf/Middle East market has seen impressive growth over the last few years. In 2014, we saw a 43 per cent growth year-on-year and in 2015, we saw a 20 per cent growth year-on-year. While the growth has stabilised, we still view and consider this market as one with tremendous potential. The spending power of our friends from the Gulf/Middle East region has not gone unnoticed, and we have worked very diligently with major carriers like Qatar, Emirates and Etihad on new direct air service offerings. We are committed to the market and have invested in the GCC by appointing Four Communications in 2016 for year-round trade outreach in the region.
Q Do share some details of the ‘welcome’ campaign?
Our economists have forecast the possibility of 800,000 less international visitors over the next three years, due in large part to a perceived “anti-welcome” sentiment. As a response to this business problem, Discover Los Angeles conceived of and created a multi-pronged ‘welcome’ initiative. One of the activities included a direct message from our President and CEO, Ernest Wooden Jr, to our critically important travel trade audience worldwide. In this message, Wooden reinforces that LA’s hospitality community will continue to roll out the red carpet for all our visitors. As a follow-up to that initiative, we orchestrated one of the world’s largest human-powered welcome signs on May 6. Hundreds of Angelinos gathered in the flight path of LAX to spell out “welcome” in four languages: Arabic, English, Chinese and Spanish. The eye-catchy show of solidarity was seen from the air by visitors arriving on flights to LAX from across the globe including flights arriving from the GCC into LAX.
Q Are there any new hotels opening in LA any time soon?
From modern boutique hotels to luxury properties, more than a dozen hotels are opening in Los Angeles this year. Hotels which have already been launched in 2017 include Dream Hollywood, The Everly Hollywood and Hotel Indigo Downtown Los Angeles, whilst new openings for spring and beyond include Nobu Ryokan Malibu (June 2017), InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown (Summer 2017) and Nomad Hotel Downtown Los Angeles (November 2017).
Q Could you name some of the latest tourist attractions?
The latest attractions and greatest events for 2017 include the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, which, after four years of planning supported by more than $16 million in grants from the Getty Foundation, will begin on September 15, 2017, in more than 70 cultural institutions throughout Southern California. The unprecedented collaboration will offer the public hundreds of concurrent exhibitions, programmes and events on the subject of Latin American and Latino art, presented for four months in institutions ranging from community-based cultural organisations and university art galleries to the region’s biggest museums. Los Angeles will welcome world-famous acts and rising stars for another stellar year of concerts. Throughout the year, iconic venues like the Hollywood Bowl and STAPLES Center will be hosting performances by actors from around the world.
Q What unique offerings are there for Middle East visitors?
Los Angeles is the entertainment capital of the world, offering 75 miles of sunny coastline, a flourishing Downtown, lifestyle playgrounds for the rich and famous, acclaimed restaurants, trend-setting art and fashion scenes, and internationally favoured neighbourhoods – all of which are highly attractive to visitors. From world-class shopping at brand-new venues and shopping districts and more than 300 days of mild temperatures and sunshine, to only-in-LA experiences like backstage tours of the acclaimed Dolby Theatre, visitors to LA are treated to memorable experiences. We will be promoting Los Angeles as the ‘go to’ destination in the US.