It was a surprisingly strong summer for tourism in Hollywood surprising because the area has no new attractions to lure visitors and its major draw, Hollywood Boulevard, is in the midst of a massive construction project.
According to hotel-industry research firm PKF Consulting, room rates and occupancy figures have been rising steadily in Hollywood particularly room rates, which are seeing a distinctive upward push as property values along the boulevard increase.
In June, the average daily room rate in Hollywood was up 15.4 percent over June 1999, according to PKF, while the average occupancy rate rose from 77 percent last year to 80 percent this year. The average cost of a Hollywood hotel room hit $89.78 in June. Figures for July are similar, with a 12.6 percent year-over-year jump in the average daily room rate.
According to the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, tourism all over Los Angeles was up this summer, though final numbers aren't yet available. International arrivals at Los Angeles International Airport were up 10 percent this summer over last, and a preliminary estimate from the LACVB indicates that 24.7 million people visited L.A. this year, compared to 23.6 million last summer.
The months of June through August account for about 40 percent of the total annual tourist traffic to Los Angeles. According to the LACVB, the city's top five attractions are Universal Studios Hollywood, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Rodeo Drive, Venice Beach and Mann's Chinese Theatre, in that order and because two of those five are on Hollywood Boulevard, that makes the street L.A.'s most popular tourist destination.
"We are having a banner year," said Tony Chawla, assistant manager of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
Hollywood officials and observers point to a couple of factors for the summer's increase in tourism. First, there was the opening of the Red Line subway to Universal City and North Hollywood, making it easier for tourists to go from the Universal Studios attraction to the Walk of Fame while avoiding parking hassles. This made a particularly big difference because Universal Studios had a strong summer season.
"We had a good summer on both counts (at Universal Studios Hollywood and CityWalk). It was better than last year," said Universal spokesman Eliot Sekuler. He declined to give any figures on attendance at the theme park.
Second, there is all the publicity Hollywood has received in recent months for its ongoing revitalization. TrizecHahn Corp. started a developer stampede to the Hollywood Boulevard area when it began working on its massive Hollywood & Highland project, an entertainment mall that will contain the future theater for the Academy Awards. As other developers and buyers flocked to the area, property values have risen sharply and the media has been quick to report the renaissance.
All the press on Hollywood revitalization has added up to an infomercial for the area, said Michael Jimenez, vice president of public affairs with the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau.
As revitalization continues in Hollywood, landmarks like the Egyptian Theatre, which underwent a $15 million renovation, are drawing more people to the area. The theater, now owned by the American Cinematheque, is currently showing a 55-minute film called "Forever Hollywood" that has piqued the interest of locals as well as tourists.
Hotel-room prices and occupancy rates have risen sharply all over Los Angeles, but the rise can't necessarily be attributed to an increase in tourism. The Democratic National Convention in August inflated hotel numbers all over the city.
"It is hard to get a feel because we had the convention and that brought in a ton of people, and we were very busy. But I don't know if that scared away the average tourist," said John Duel of the LACVB. "We did project that this summer would be better than last, and we were running even or ahead of that projection."
Leron Gubler, president and chief executive of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, believes Hollywood will be a major hotel destination once new facilities are built and projects like TrizecHahn's renovation of the old Holiday Inn into a Renaissance Hotel are completed. "It is an indication that more people are staying in Hollywood and spending more money," he said.
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