L.A. to get economic boost from game developers’ gatherings

Downtown Los Angeles will play host to thousands of game geeks next year as part of a three-year contract for the Game Developers Conference Next to be held in the City of Angels, pumping an estimated $18.8 million into the local economy.

GDC Next represents the latest coup for the Los Angeles Convention Center, which is scheduled for 24 conventions this year — the most since 2001.

The show has attracted more than 3,000 attendees each year in Austin, Texas, where it has been held for the last eight years, said Simon Carless, executive vice president of UBM TechWeb Game Network. UBM plans to expand the scope of the show next year, bringing additional visitors to Los Angeles who are expected to book 5,000 room nights in nearby hotels, according to the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board. The show is also confirmed in L.A. for 2014 and the following year.

The 2013 show, scheduled for Nov. 5 to 7, is projected to boost the L.A.-area economy by $6.3 million through spending on restaurants, hotels, transportation and other services, the board said, and $18.8 million for the three years.

“We’re in a position to grow in Los Angeles,” Carless said of UBM’s decision to relocate the conference. “Los Angeles is very friendly in terms of accessibility to Asia and other places on the West Coast. We also feel that the city is a great hub of digital games development.”

UBM runs a number of GDC-branded conferences, including a main annual conference that attracted 23,500 conventioneers in March to the Moscone Center in San Francisco. GDC Next is an offshoot that focuses on developers who make games played on mobile devices, online and on social networks such as Facebook.

Conferences have helped Los Angeles County draw a record number of visitors over the last year, pushing hotel occupancy rates to historical highs.

In July, the hotel occupancy rates in Los Angeles County reached 83.9% — the highest rate for any month in the last 25 years. Partly based on such numbers, the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board predicted the county will welcome 41.33 million day and overnight visitors this year, a 2.3% increase from about 40.4 million visitors last year.

Tourism officials attribute the improved visitor numbers to pent-up demand among travelers who stayed close to home in recent years.

The convention center has benefited in the last few years from the revitalized downtown, including the addition of restaurants, clubs and theaters in the L.A. Live entertainment complex across the street from it, according to hotel managers and tourism officials.

Carless cited the availability of restaurants and hotel rooms at L.A. Live as a key factor in selecting the convention center.

“The fact that L.A. Live is there made a big difference,” said Carless, who said Los Angeles ranked especially high in a survey of game developers who were asked which cities they would like to host the show.

The city this year came close to losing E3, a far larger video game convention that attracts more than 45,000 attendees, when the show’s organizers feared that the proposed Farmers Field construction plans would disrupt its events. At the last minute, city officials and AEG, the company that proposes to build the football stadium, were able to win back E3 with promises to cease nearby construction during the weeklong event.

“We are a city that people want to come to,” said Mark Liberman, president and chief executive of the tourism board. “At the end of the day, the increased number of visitors translate to a stronger economy and more jobs.”