Los Angeles County hotels can expect another record number of tourists mixed with a slight dip in occupancy rates next year, according to a projection the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board made last week at its annual hotel industry conference.

“Everything is looking good, but the biggest risk to all of this is our trial-by-error presidency,” Wendy Kheel, vice president of tourism insights, told an audience of several hundred industry members at the Intercontinental Los Angeles Downtown. “It’s very hard to predict.”

Trips by both international and domestic tourists have continued to increase, although the gains have slowed on the international side in part because of President Donald Trump’s often inflammatory rhetoric, said board spokesman Shant Apelian.

The board, which is the city’s official marketing agency, nonetheless expects a 2 percent increase to 49.2 million visitors next year from this year’s projected 48.2 million, buoyed by visitors from within the United States as well as China and India, officials said.

Hotel occupancy is expected to decrease 2.1 percentage points next year from a projected 2017 average occupancy of 81.8 percent because of the hotel rooms coming on line, officials said.

The county has seen steady growth in the number of visitors since the Recession. China’s relaxing of travel restrictions to the United States and its population’s increasing wealth have made it L.A.’s fastest-growing source of international visitors. Chinese visitors outpaced Canadians last year and are expected to overtake Mexicans, the county’s biggest source of international tourists, in two to three years.

The tourism board is setting its sights on India.

“They’re exactly where China was 10 years ago,” said Don Skeoch, the board’s chief marketing officer. “That’s why we’ve got to plant the stake in the ground now.”

The first nonstop flight between India and Los Angeles International Airport will begin this fall, Skeoch said. The board is exploring the idea of opening an outpost in that country as it did in China in 2006, he added.

– Caroline Anderson

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