News and culture through the lens of Southern California.
Hosted by A Martínez
Airs Weekdays 9 to 10 a.m.
Business & Economy

LA tourism didn't drop after Trump's travel ban because of this country




File: Chinese tourists walk past the TCL Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood on Oct. 24, 2014.
File: Chinese tourists walk past the TCL Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood on Oct. 24, 2014.
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Listen to story

03:35
Download this story 3.0MB

The L.A. Tourism and Convention Board was worried last year. It feared that foreign tourists would no longer feel welcomed in the U.S. after President Trump announced a travel ban on visitors from certain countries.

On top of that, the board thought the heightened debate on illegal immigration would discourage visitors from Mexico, too.

So it projected L.A. could miss out on roughly $220 million without those tourist dollars.

But not only did people keep coming to Los Angeles, 7.3 million international tourists visited Southern California last year – a 3.2 percent increase over the year before.

"Asia is really, really the bright spot for us," says Ernest Wooden, CEO of the L.A. Tourism and Convention Board.

Visits from Mexico did dip – though not as much as feared.

However, a jump in tourists from China (and to a lesser extent South Korea) mitigated any losses.

Approximately 1.2 million Chinese visitors came to L.A. in 2017, an 11 percent increase over the year before.

"We project that within the next four to five years, Chinese visitation to Los Angeles may actually exceed our number one visitor, which is Mexico," Wooden says. 

Tourism from South Korea increased 15.3 percent over the same period, too, with 341,000 visitors.

"Around the Pacific Rim, we're sort of a bucket-list destination," he explains. "People will say, 'One day, I want to come to Hollywood.'"