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Santa Monica Visitors Bureau Hosts Tourism Summit

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Santa Monica Convention and Visitors BureauWhen one lives in a city as breathtakingly beautiful and unique as Santa Monica, inevitably that city will be shared with visitors.

By Daniel Larios
Staff Writer

May 13, 2014 – The Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau (SMCVB) presented an update on the state of tourism in Santa Monica during its fifth annual Travel and Tourism Summit on Friday at the Miramar Hotel.

Coinciding with the U.S. Travel Association’s National Tourism Week, the event provided a Year One update on SMCVB’s five-year strategic plan, announced recent trends on Santa Monica’s visitor population and provided industry changes from Visit California, which is the state’s official tourism agency.

“The theme of today’s summit is ‘People are Talking,’” said Misti Kerns, CEO/president of the SMCVB. “In our destination and around the world, we hear a lot of outside and inside opinions about tourism and our destination, and today you will hear more about what we are doing with these opinions.”

The results of the 2013 Santa Monica Tourism Economic and Fiscal Impact report were released at the summit and highlighted several important changes to Santa Monica’s visitor profile within the past year.

The report, which has been conducted on an annual basis since 1983, revealed that visitors to Santa Monica from outside the United States remained steadily above 50 percent. This is an important balance to maintain because international visitors tend to stay longer, use public transportation and spend more money during their visit, officials said.

Also revealed in the report is that tourism jobs in Santa Monica increased 5.6 percent to 12,908 and that overnight visitors to Santa Monica rose 5.2 percent from 2012 to 2013.

“The figures revealed today show that the efforts driving our strategic plan are working,” Kerns said. “We are converting day visitors to overnight visitors, which is clearly illustrated in the steep increase in Transient Occupancy Tax, up 7.6 percent from last year. This generated $42.3 million to our City’s general fund, providing critical funding to ... schools, parks and fire and police departments, allowing for many other services for our residents."

She added, “These numbers, supported by figures showing that both the number of jobs supported by tourism and total visitor spending reached record highs in 2013, makes it clear that tourism is an essential aspect of Santa Monica’s thriving economy.”

Summit attendees had the opportunity to participate in one of two breakout sessions. One session highlighted Santa Monica as an emerging tech destination, while the second focused on SMCVB’s international sales and marketing opportunities.

The tech session focused on ways to attract groups and business travelers to Santa Monica, emphasizing how the examination of recent technological trends can help local businesses grow.

The international sales and marketing session concentrated on the latest tourism trends, opportunities and challenges in other countries such as Australia, Brazil and the United Kingdom, which account for SMCVB’s top international markets.The session included a discussion on how to better promote business and increase revenues from international visitors.

“This City has a great brand, Kerns said. "I’m proud of it. The SMCVB makes this happen.”

During the summit, an SMCVB representative also announced the launch of the “Santa Monica Shuttle,” a new partnership between SMCVB and Santa Monica Free Ride.

“This new, on-demand service will give pedestrians a fun and environmentally friendly way to experience Santa Monica by taking them to Main Street, Santa Monica Place, Downtown Santa Monica, the Santa Monica Pier and Montana Avenue in hotel-sponsored electric vehicles at no cost,” officials said.

The shuttle will initially launch with Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, Shutters on the Beach and DoubleTree Santa Monica, while looking to expand with more vehicles to additional Santa Monica hotels.

At the conclusion of the summit, Jessica Mahone, front desk manager at JW Marriot Santa Monica Le Merigot, was honored with the Thelma Parks Tourism Spirit Awards for her “contribution of exceptional service in the hospitality and tourism industry,” officials said.

She was awarded a $1,000 scholarship and a hotel stay at Palihouse Santa Monica, provided by SMCVB and the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce.

Speakers at the event also included President/CEO of Visit California Caroline Beteta and Santa Monica Director of Planning and Community Development David Martin.

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