Staff Reporter

With Asian tourists traveling less because of economic turmoil in the region, the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce is looking elsewhere for visitors and has rerouted a sales mission originally planned for the Far East.

The new destination? Mexico City.

Next week a contingent including Mayor Les Bronte and Chamber of Commerce CEO Rolfe Arnhym heads south of the border on a three-day trip to stir up business for the city.

The trip will include a luncheon for Mexico City travel writers and the Mexican Ministry of Tourism. In addition, Arnhym and Bronte will meet with business leaders to encourage them to open offices in Beverly Hills. Their focus will be the entertainment industry film and television distribution companies are prime candidates with a secondary focus on high-end retailers comparable to Tiffany and Gucci.

The outlook for Mexican visitors is better now than it has been it has been in several years, said Patti MacJennett, vice president of tourism for the L.A. Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"Economic indicators for Mexico have strengthened in the last six months," she said. "Debts are down, and the currency is much stronger."

Los Angeles gets more visitors from Mexico than from any other foreign country. Last year, L.A. saw an 8 percent rise in the number of Mexican visitors, with a 10 percent rise estimated for this year, MacJennett said.

Still, most tourism to Beverly Hills is from the United Kingdom and Germany. Japan also has been a primary source of visitors, as have Korea, the Philippines, and Hong Kong.

So, do hotels like the Regent Beverly Wilshire receive a lot of wealthy Mexican travelers? Actually, no, says General Manager Peter O'Colmain, who is part of the delegation (and vice president of the Beverly Hills Visitors Bureau).

"That's why we're going. We feel this is a great opportunity to expand into a market which we haven't concentrated on. There's a base of very successful business people there.

"Also, the trip was very inexpensive," he added. "We got 50 percent off the airfare by partnering with United Airlines, and we got a great rate from the Four Seasons Hotel (which manages the Regent Beverly Wilshire)."

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