California may see record spending by visitors in 2011

Thanks to a jump in tourism, visitor spending in the Golden State may hit a record this year, with continued growth in 2012.

By the end of the year, domestic and international visitors to California will have spent $104.4 billion, a 10% increase over last year, according to a forecast released Monday by Tourism Economics, a consulting firm in Pennsylvania. The forecast was commissioned by Visit California, the state’s tourism board.

Travelers to California spent $95.1 billion in 2010, but the state this year is expected to exceed the $100-billion mark for the first time, thanks to continued growth in domestic travel and a surge in international travel to the state.

The forecast is the latest sign that the tourism industry has rebounded from the recession, said Dan Mishell, director of research for the tourism board. “We are also outpacing the country as a whole.”


Mishell said California has bounced back faster than other states because it offers more choices for activities and attractions. California also draws many international visitors who want to experience the state’s unique “attitude and lifestyle,” he added.

Overall visitation numbers to California are expected to be up 4% in 2011 compared with last year. That includes 6.9% growth in international visitors, including strong growth from Mexico and Canada, and a 9% increase in overseas visitors, particularly from such countries as China, France and Australia, according to the report.

Overseas visitors are valued in the tourism industry because they typically stay longer and spend more money than domestic visitors.

The economic forecast predicts visitor spending will continue to grow, reaching $110 billion in 2012 and $115 billion in 2013. Still, the report warned that the economic future of the travel and tourism industry remains cloudy.


“The low level of confidence, the loss of wealth due to the stock market declines and the high degree of uncertainty suggest that the near-term outlook for consumer spending in the U.S. remains subdued,” the report said.

The report also suggested that California has been able to take advantage of its geographic location to draw high-spending visitors from Asia, especially China and South Korea.

The state’s travel-related employment in 2011 is expected to reach 890,000 jobs, or about 4% of total employment, the report said.