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Santa Monica Travel Market Continues to Recover

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Good Vibes Start Here. Santa Monica Travel and Tourism

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By Jorge Casuso

May 19, 2023 -- Santa Monica's tourism industry is on a steady road to recovery, with both the number of visitors and the money they spent rising significantly last year, tourism officials announced at a summit Wednesday.

Some 5.3 million visitors came to Santa Monica in 2022, a 52 percent increase from 3.5 million in 2021 and a 165 percent jump from the 2 million who visited in 2020, when the coronavirus shutdown crippled the travel industry.

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Meanwhile, the total money spent by travelers increased by 28 percent -- from less than $751 million in 2021 to more than $961 million last year, according to data from Santa Monica Travel & Tourism (SMTT).

That was more than double the $453.8 million spent in 2020, when the drive market replaced the international travel industry that accounted for more than half of Santa Monica's visitors before the COVID shutdown.

"Santa Monica tourism continued to strengthen, and is well positioned for further growth as key international and business travel rebuilds," SMTT officials said.

While beginning to recover last year, the international travel market accounted for 21 percent of the total market share, more than double the 9.2 percent in 2021 but far short of the 51 percent it claimed in 2019.

The Santa Monica travel industry is relying on California visitors to make up for the international shortfall -- with the share of visitors from the state leaping from 19 percent in 2019 to 54 percent last year.

Meanwhile the share of visitors from out of state dropped from 60.8 percent in 2021 to 25 percent last year, according to SMTT's data.

Last year, only 29 percent arrived by commercial air, down from 68 percent in 2019. Once in Santa Monica, the number visitors who got around by walking dropped from 24 percent in 2021 to 18 percent last year.

While total visitor spending rose in 2022, the average daily spending per person dropped from $148 to $128. That compares with $164 in 2019, when international visitors represented a majority.

The UK and Western Europe were the top international "feeder markets," accounting for 15.8 and 15.7 percent of foreign travelers respectively. Asia, South America and Mexico were next with about 10 percent each.

Last year, visitors spent a total of $492,522,274 on lodging, up from $350,094,364, resulting in a 41 percent increase in "bed taxes" -- from $42 million in 2021 to $59 million last year.

Retail taxes generated by visitors also grew -- although at about half the pace of bed taxes -- from $3.7 million in 2021 to $4.1 million, a 21 percent increase.

The tourism market's recovery also resulted in a 40 percent increase in local visitor-supported jobs -- from 5,747 in 2021 to 8,049 last year.

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