LOS ANGELES–For the sixth straight year in a row, the number of tourists visiting sunny Los Angeles has set a new record, said officials, with 47.3 million total visitors coming to the county last year. That’s 1.7 million more than 2015, an increase of 3.8 percent.
In addition, 80.9 million travelers passed through Los Angeles International Airport in 2016, setting a record for the third consecutive year.
“These twin milestones are the cornerstones for prosperity and expansion of those numbers in the future,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at a press conference at the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood on Wednesday.
Garcetti joined other city leaders to restate his goal of 50 million visitors to Los Angeles by 2020.
“Tourism is booming in Los Angeles, and it’s helping to drive our whole city’s economy forward,” he said.
A major contributor to this year’s tourism record was the opening of the Harry Potter expansion at Universal Studios in April of 2016, which was expected to bring in one million additional visitors per year.
With the Harry Potter expansion, the 2015 Fast and Furious: Supercharged ride, and the new “The Walking Dead” haunted maze that opened in the summer of 2016, Universal Studios has also been setting attendance records.
Monday, January 2 was so busy that the park had to shut the doors to new visitors for the first time in history.
“The world is bullish on Los Angeles,” said Los Angeles Councilmember Paul Krekorian. “People believe in our future. They want to come here. They want to participate, and I think that is dramatically demonstrated by these statistics.”
40.2 million tourists visited Los Angeles in 2016 from within the United States, an increase of 3.8 percent from the year before.
7.1 million were international visitors, and Los Angeles became the first US city to receive more than one million visitors from China alone in 2016. China accounted for 75 percent of Los Angeles’ international growth.
India was the county’s second-fastest growing international market with an increase of more than 10 percent.
Average hotel occupancy in Los Angeles County in 2016 also soared above 80 percent for the first time in history. The county was the only hotel market in the US to achieve double-digit growth of nearly 11 percent.
“2016 was a year of Olympic proportions, and LA’s tourism industry stands tall at the center podium as a gold medal winner,” said Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board President Ernest Wooden Jr., hinting that the next big prize for the city would be hosting the Summer Olympics in 2024. The city will find out if it achieved that goal by September of this year.
Tourism is vital to the Los Angeles economy, supporting around 500,000 leisure and hospitality jobs last year.
But the growing tourism industry can also sometimes cause headaches for local residents.
“Our city must do more to protect neighborhoods that are negatively affected by our increasing tourism numbers,” said Los Angeles Councilmember David Ryu at Wednesday’s city council meeting.
During the meeting, Ryu introduced a motion to request a study on the impact of tourism on certain neighborhoods and the feasibility of using tourism revenue to mitigate traffic problems and help educate tourists.