Ask the Expert: Why L.A. is Attracting International Visitors | meetL.A.

Ask the Expert: Why L.A. is Attracting International Visitors

Home to people from over 140 countries who speak 224 languages, Los Angeles is a destination that welcomes everyone with open arms. In this “Ask the Expert” segment, Sheena Yu, our Destination Sales Director for the Asia Pacific region, speaks about the challenges of international tourism and travel as well as the reasons L.A. attracts a plethora of international visitors.  

What role do you play in selling L.A. to international meeting planners?

My role is to facilitate connections between LATCB members and meeting planners to position the destination as a viable global consideration and help them create their perfect Los Angeles meetings experience. By executing an aggressive programming strategy including tradeshows, FAMs, missions, client events and in-market sales calls, etc., I can share all that Los Angeles has to offer -- especially with all of the new and positive changes, additional hotel inventory, and extraordinary venues. Through understanding each market's culture and background, I help provide tailored suggestions and present L.A. at its best to encourage the planners to book their meetings and incentive groups in L.A. 

What are some of the challenges you face to attract these travelers?

Cultural differences were a challenge in the past, but with the LATCB China Ready program, that challenge has been reduced already. However, the U.S.-China trade war has given visitors a sense of uncertainty with conducting meetings in the U.S. Add to that the high rate of visa denials, which has Chinese visitors and groups shying away from coming to L.A., and it has become crucial to even more frequently and consistently share our MICE message. Regardless, these challenges are not unique to L.A. and, compared to the rest of the U.S., Chinese visitors do feel more welcome in L.A. 

Most U.S. cities saw a drop in international visitation last year, but L.A. saw 3.2% growth. What's driving this growth?

Our “Everyone is Welcome” campaign has positioned L.A. as a destination that’s open to all travelers, which many visitors and meeting planners are delighted to hear in today’s world. Also, LATCB holds many events in markets that help us further build L.A.’s reputation as an open, welcoming place so even with some challenges, we’re still seeing visitation growth.  

What aspects of Los Angeles are international travelers focused on?

For the Asia Pacific markets, Hollywood is really the epitome of L.A. for those meeting attendees. They usually learn about L.A. through the celebrities, movies and other entertainment shows that air overseas so they want to come and see the real thing. In addition, they are often delighted to learn that L.A. is diverse and multicultural, especially for first-time meeting planners or attendees who may find the language and cultural barrier a bigger challenge elsewhere in the U.S.

What markets are ideal targets now or in the future?

While China is still our primary target, including greater China markets (Hong Kong and Taiwan), we have also expanded our efforts to Southeast Asia, Korea and Japan.