May 06--For the third consecutive year, Los Angeles County's tourism sector set records in 2013 for both the number of visitors and their economic input as they partook of the region's smorgasbord of destinations, according to a report releasedtoday.

Last year, the county hosted 42.2 million visitors, who collectively spent $18.4 billion during their stay, an increase of 5.5 percent over the $17.4 billion spent in 2012, the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, known as L.A. Tourism, said in its annual economic assessment of the sector.

Tourism is one of the largest and strongest economic sectors in L.A. County, supporting 436,700 jobs last year -- 21,400 more than in 2012 and accounting for one out of every five new jobs added in the county, the board said.

"It is one of the sectors that offers the local economy tremendous potential," said Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist at the Kyser Center for Economic Research in Los Angeles. "I think there is an awful lot of upside to the industry here in the region, not just Los Angeles County."

Don Skeoch, chief marketing officer at L.A Tourism, noted that during the year's first quarter hotel occupancy hit a record of just more than 80 percent, beating San Francisco, Las Vegas and New York. "We're gong to blow that record away for this year as well," he said.

L.A. Tourism is also heavily invested in promoting the city as a destination. For example, when the board relaunched discoverlosangeles.com in 2012, it racked up some 4 million visits, though officials expect to see that number increase to 8 million in 2014.

The economic-impact numbers, being released as part of National Travel and Tourism Week, got the attention of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. "As one of L.A.'s fastest-growing industries, tourism has been a stabilizing force for L.A.'s economy and is an integral part of our foundation for the future," he said in a statement.

Tourism will likely continue at a record pace this year, with the Los Angeles Convention Center set to host 29 conventions, up from 22 in 2013. More conventioneers will be staying in mid-city, an economic boost for downtown hotels, restaurants and shops.

Though the visitor numbers were released earlier this year, the full-year 2013 economic impact analysis was just completed.

"L.A.'s third consecutive record-breaking year for tourism in 2013, and the huge contributions in jobs and visitor spending, underscore L.A.'s position as one of the world's leading global tourist destinations," L.A. Tourism President and CEO Ernest Wooden Jr. said in a statement. "This achievement shows that we are on track to reach our goal of 50 million visitors by 2020."

Tourism is a big contributor to the local job base and the tax revenue stream for municipalities throughout the county..

Last year, the sector generated $1.3 billion in tax revenue, 1 percent more than in 2012, with the money used to help fund services including police, fire, street maintenance, park and libraries.

Among the records that fell last year were overall visitation, domestic visitors, international visitors, annual hotel occupancy and hotel room nights.

Total domestic visitors to Los Angeles hit 36 million last year, up 1.9 percent from 35.3 million in 2012. Domestic overnight visitation achieved its highest level ever -- 22.3 million.

The county is gearing up for an expected increase in the region's popularity as one of the top destinations in the world. There are 10 hotels currently under construction in the downtown area, with 2,135 rooms set for completion before the end of 2014. Twenty-five hotels are in various stages of planning across the Los Angeles region, which should bring 4,970 new hotel rooms by 2017.

Among the big ones are the Wilshire Grand, a 900-room, 73-story tower developed by Korean Air at Wilshire and 6th Street expected to be complete in 2017.

The $1 billion mixed-use project -- the tallest building on the West Coast at 1,100 feet -- will be within walking distance of the Convention Center and feature retail and dining spaces, 400,000 square feet of office space and a 73rd-floor "sky lobby."

L.A. Tourism kicks off a celebratory week today, with staff members visiting Los Angeles International Airport to deliver cookies and coffee to TSA workers and taxi drivers. The group partnered with celebrity chef Susan Feniger of Border Grill to bring lunch to show Mid-City LAPD officers and LAFD firefighters some appreciation. A safe city, all agree, is critical to maintaining a thriving tourism industry.

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