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Visitors to Los Angeles County spent a record $20.6 billion in 2015

Visitors to Los Angeles County spent a record $20.6 billion in 2015
Chinese tourists shop at the Citadel Outlets in Commerce on Aug. 12, 2015. Spending by international travelers to California has leveled off because of the drop in value of foreign currency compared with the U.S. dollar. (Christina House / For The Times)

Tourism in California and Los Angeles County continued on its record pace last year, largely driven by new visitors from Asia. But spending by international visitors statewide was down as weaker foreign currency curbed their purchasing power in the U.S.

That was the upshot from two studies released Monday at an Orange County tourism conference.

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In Los Angeles County, a record 45.6 million travelers visited the region, up 3.2% from 44.2 million in 2014. Nearly 7 million of those visitors were international travelers, with many coming from China and South Korea.

Tourism officials had previously estimated that the county hosted 45.5 million visitors but the final data from the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board show the number was slightly higher.

Those tourists spent more than $20.6 billion in 2015, more than ever before and a 4.9% increase in spending over the previous year, according to the convention board.

"Tourism isn't just thriving in Los Angeles — it's powering an economic resurgence that touches every corner of our city," said L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Overall, California drew an estimated 258 million visitors in 2015, a 3% increase over 2014, according to a previous study by Visit California, the travel and tourism agency for the state.

Those visitors spent $122.5 billion in 2015, a 3.4% increase over the previous year, according to a study released at the Orange County event by Dean Runyan Associates, the economic analysis firm based in Portland, Ore.

However, the statewide increase was driven by domestic travelers while spending by international visitors dropped, according to the report, which did not break out the rate changes for California.

"As the value of foreign currencies fall relative to the U.S. dollar, foreign visitors have less money to spend on U.S. goods and services," the Dean Runyan report said.

In August, the Chinese government devalued the yuan, which is pegged against the U.S. dollar, in an effort to boost its manufacturing and export sectors.

Spending by international visitors is important because foreign travelers typically stay longer and spend more than tourists within California or travelers from other states.

Orange County had 47.4 million visitors in 2015, a 3% increase over the previous year. They spent about $11.3 billion in 2015, a 5% increase over the previous year, according to the tourism agency for Orange County.

Caroline Beteta, president and chief executive of Visit California, said she expects that the investments already made to promote the state will lead to continued growth of visitors and spending in 2016.

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"It's really becoming one of the most important industries for growth and prosperity in the state," she said.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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