Visitors to Santa Monica spent a record $1.2 billion in the city in 2006-07, a 59-percent increase over a three-year period, according to a study released by the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau (SMCVB).

The 2006-07 Study of Santa Monica Tourism Economic Impacts found that tourism is now the leading generator of funds for the City of Santa Monica’s general fund, contributing $33 million from the hotel Transient Occupancy Tax alone.

Lauren Schlau Consulting and CIC Research, Inc., conducted the economic impact study and previous studies, which have been administered every three years since the Convention and Visitors Bureau’s inception 25 years ago.

“Tourism plays an important role in the local economy, providing the community with a significant revenue stream for services and ensuring that the city budget remains stable even during economic downturns,” said Santa Monica city manager P. Lamont Ewell. “Our partnership with SMCVB is vital in these efforts.”

The study also shows that the city’s hotels had an 83.6 percent average occupancy rate for 2006-07, with 1.12 million annual occupied rooms.

Of the $1.2 billion total direct visitor spending, nearly 40 percent, or $468 million, went toward shopping and retail spending, with $279 spent on lodging and $217 million on meals, followed by $84.8 million on local transportation/parking and $67 million on beverages, according to the study.

At $618 million, hotel visitors spent the most, followed by $474 million spent by day visitors and $130 million spent by those staying in private Santa Monica residences.

Santa Monica welcomed 5.8 million visitors in 2006-2007, an increase of 24 percent from 4.7 million total in 2003. Day visitors accounted for 82 percent, hotel guests for 14 percent and those staying in private residences accounted for nearly four percent, the study found.

The 2006-2007 Economic Impact Study showed that the majority of international visitors to Santa Monica are coming from the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Japan.

“We offer an incredible experience in Santa Monica, but we must continue to tell people our story and invite them to visit in a fiercely competitive market,” said Misti Kerns, Convention and Visitors Bureau president and chief executive officer.

Convention and Visitors Bureau officials said they remain focused on a strategic approach to tourism, investing in key international markets such as United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland to maintain the balance between international and domestic travelers.

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