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Monday, Dec 4, 2023

CONVENTION — Looking for Tourists, Marina Proposes Convention Bureau

In a move aimed at boosting Marina del Rey as a tourist destination, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors has approved a plan to create a convention and visitors bureau for the marina an odd decision given that Marina del Rey doesn’t have a convention center.

Backers say the name of the agency is simply meant to convey familiarity for out-of-towners seeking a recognizable entity from which to get information about what to do and where to go once they get here.

“People will call a convention and visitors bureau from out of town. I asked the same question (about the name), but the essence of it is that it’s recognizable,” said Supervisor Don Knabe, who introduced the measure to form the convention bureau.

The measure, backed by the hotels in and around Marina del Rey, calls for the creation of an agency with a budget of around $500,000. A committee will be formed to set up an implementation plan, due by Oct. 1, that includes a budget and recommendations for hiring staff.

Given the emergence of such tourist draws as Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade and Pasadena’s Old Town, a greater public relations push is necessary to draw local and tourist business to Marina del Rey, area leaders say. And with the marina targeted for a major redevelopment, the sooner the word gets out, the better.

“As areas like (Santa Monica and Pasadena) get developed, areas like Marina del Rey don’t have the same appeal as they did in the past,” said Javier Cano, area general manager for Marriott Hotels and president of the chamber of commerce that includes the Westchester, Los Angeles International Airport and Marina del Rey areas. “As plans to redevelop (Marina del Rey) move along, having a mechanism in place to attract people is crucial.”

While the details have yet to be determined, the envisioned bureau would likely be funded by a voluntary 1 percent increase on the transient occupancy tax paid by marina-area hotels, along with some county funds, said Cano, who has been a driving force behind the measure.

“One percent of the TOT from the hotels would be about $500,000 (a year),” he said.

Earlier this year, the Board of Supervisors approved 39-year lease extensions on some waterfront parcels in the publicly owned marina, which officials hope will spark redevelopment of a high-rise residential and retail district, complete with a waterfront promenade.

“A number of people, particularly the hotel owners, have come to us with ideas about making (Marina del Rey) a destination point,” Knabe said. “We’ve allocated some money to public relations before, and do an advertising campaign now and again, but we’ve never had a complete marketing plan. We want to sell the marina as a concept like they’ve sold the Third Street Promenade or Old Town.”

Far from considering the move a threat to its own business, downtown L.A. tourism leaders are applauding the move.

“We don’t see anything more than this being a complement to us,” said George Kirkland, president of the Los Angeles Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It sounds like the budget would be much more than anything the area has had in the past (for public relations). It’s a movement in the right direction.”

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