A strengthening economy and rising consumer confidence pushed tourism numbers for California and Los Angeles to record highs, according to data released Tuesday.
California hosted a record 251 million visitors in 2014, up 3% from the previous record of 243 million in 2013, according to Visit California, the state's nonprofit tourism agency. Visitors spent $117.5 billion in the state and supported more than 1 million jobs, according to the agency.
A new record was also set in Los Angeles, where a final tally of visitors reached 44.2 million, up from the 43.4 million estimate announced in January, the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board said Tuesday. The final number is 4.8% above the 2013 tally.
In Los Angeles, visitors spent $19.6 billion in 2014, a 6.8% increase over the previous year, according to the board. International visitors -- a coveted group of tourists who generally stay longer and spend more per visit -- accounted for nearly 33% of all visitor spending, the board said.
Economists have attributed the surge in tourism to a strengthening economy, high consumer confidence and pent-up demand among Americans who put off travel during the economic recession. Also, a growing middle class in China is pushing visits from that country, experts say.
Although a recent study concluded that most tourism jobs in Los Angeles County are low-paying, city and state tourism leaders applauded the new numbers, saying the infusion of visitors' dollars sparks growth in other business sectors.
"The strong tourism economy in Los Angeles contributes to the benefit of all Californians," said Caroline Beteta, president and chief executive of Visit California.