Big international boom in SoCal tourism

HOLLYWOOD With the economy down, it seems as though international tourists are really cashing in.

"It's cheaper to buy everything in the USA at this moment," said Franco Candusso, who is visiting from Italy.

"It would be lovely to live over here because it's just so cheap compared to the UK. Our cost of living is so expensive - it's brilliant, we can afford to buy so much more with your dollar," said Helga Smith from the United Kingdom.

International tourism is booming in Southern California, thanks to the weak American dollar.

Jack Kyser, with the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation, says as the rest of the local economy slips into a recession, the local tourism industry will be hiring.

"You have obviously the hotels. And then let's say you have some of the restaurant jobs that reflect tourism, some of the retail jobs reflect tourism, you have car rental, air transportation...It does translate into a lot of jobs," said Kyser.

If the U.S. economy continues to get worse, some say the local tourism industry in Southern California will continue to get better.

Some businesses are doing so well, they are looking to expand.

Starline Tours in Hollywood saw their business go up 30 percent over the last few years because of international tourism. They are buying new buses and hiring more foreign language tour guides.

"Due to the fact that the dollar is cheap...And we're getting a lot of Europeans, Australians and Asians coming to the United States," said Vahid Sapir, Starline Tours.

Experts say Mandarin tour guides will be in demand locally. A new agreement between China and the U.S. brought hundreds of Chinese tourists to Los Angeles in June. Tens of thousands more are expected later this year.

"As we bring more and more visitors from China to Los Angeles there will be of course more and more jobs in our the tourism industry. Whether it be at venues, like here at Universal, and our hotels, or all the other attractions that we have throughout the city," said Mark Liberman, president of Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Experts say the number of new jobs created this year will depend on how well tourism looks over the summer.

Places like Disneyland have reported an 11 percent increase in sales from last year.


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