Hollywood Boulevard is starting to bounce back. Thanking American tourists

Visitors to Hollywood Boulevard are mostly domestic travelers, now that pandemic travel restrictions have limited international visitors. Still, pedestrian traffic on Hollywood Boulevard was brisk on the Walk of Fame and other iconic sites Wednesday. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

When Dallas resident Lois Green offered to take her daughter Ava anywhere for her 16th birthday, the teenager chose a trip to Hollywood so that she could visit the Walk of Fame, see the Hollywood sign, take a celebrity home visit and, of course, check out at Disneyland.

It was not a low budget vacation. They booked an expensive VIP tour of Anaheim Theme Park – starting at around $ 3,000 per day – and stayed at the chic Dream Hotel in Hollywood, where nightly rates can run as high as $ 439.

“I didn’t hold my checkbook on this trip,” Green said as she, her daughter and a friend dined at the Dream Hotel’s rooftop restaurant. “We are really spoiling ourselves.”

Hollywood is seeing an increase in the number of American visitors such as Green, who splurge on high-end digs, memorabilia, food, and top-priced attractions. This is good news for Hollywood business owners who have lost the income of spending international travelers due to travel restrictions linked to the pandemic.

The loss has been significant: International visitors such as those from Europe or China spend an average of $ 4,200 per visit to the United States, while American tourists spend much less – about $ 600 – per trip.

But that could change. Business owners say they see American tourists with large bank accounts, which they attribute to more than a year of deferred travel and government stimulus money. Many travelers were given the green light to visit when California ended most pandemic restrictions in June, reopening and lifting capacity limits at theme parks, beaches and restaurants.

“I think Americans are just happy to get out of their homes,” said Jen Ryan, managing director of Funko, a toy and collectibles company on Hollywood Boulevard, where sales are surpassing pre-season levels. pandemic.

Between April and June, pedestrian traffic on Hollywood Boulevard jumped 153%, according to a study by the Hollywood Partnership, a business improvement program for stores along the boulevard. Hotel occupancy rates in the Hollywood / Beverly Hills area fell from 52% in April to 72% in July, according to STR, a global hotel data and analysis company.

About 95% of visitors to Hollywood now come from the United States, with just 5% representing international travelers such as tourists from Canada and Mexico, said Kristopher Larson, president of the Hollywood Partnership. Before the pandemic, about 15% of visitors to Hollywood were international visitors, who tend to stay longer and spend more on food, hotels and souvenirs, he said.

The exterior of the Dream Hotel and the traffic and pedestrians in the street in front

Not far from Hollywood Boulevard, business started to surpass pre-pandemic levels at the Dream Hotel. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Why Do Tourists Spend Vacation Money Around Hollywood? Visitors cite Southern California’s warm climate, beaches, an array of attractions to choose from, and a chance – slim as it may be – of spotting a celebrity.

Additionally, the rise of the Delta variant in some countries has made traveling abroad much riskier than staying put. Although many countries, including most of Europe, have reopened to Americans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned against visits until travelers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Additionally, Americans returning from overseas must first produce a negative coronavirus test taken within the previous three days.

Michigan music fanatic John Napoletano recently stopped by Madame Tussauds to see wax figures of Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

He said his two-day tour will include stops at Venice Beach, the Hollywood Sign, the Whiskey a Go Go nightclub and the Capitol Records building.

“I’ve wanted to come here for years,” he said before leaving to examine the handprints and footprints of movie legends on the sidewalk outside the TCL Chinese Theater. “There is so much to do.”

Larson and Hollywood business owners say rising spending by domestic travelers is keeping Hollywood’s tourism industry thriving – for now.

“Everyone is living their best life,” said Vaughn Davis, general manager of The Dream Hotel, where occupancy has peaked at 85% and revenue from food and beverage sales has started to exceed the numbers. before the pandemic. “They just want to have fun.”

Tourists walk near the wax figures of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe at Madame Tussauds.

Tourists visiting Madame Tussauds in Hollywood get up close and personal with the wax figures of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

At Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, next to the TCL Chinese Theater, demand has exceeded 2019 levels and “keeps growing”, with most visitors coming from San Diego, the San Francisco Bay Area and the Mexico, said Helen Larimore, the museum’s marketing manager, who declined to disclose attendance figures.

Since Amoeba Music moved in April from Sunset Boulevard to a new location on Hollywood Boulevard, business has surpassed pre-pandemic levels, mainly thanks to tourist pedestrian traffic from the Walk of Fame, said Melissa Logan, senior manager. from the famous record store.

Tourists, laden with bags of souvenirs, don’t skimp when shopping for vinyl records, posters and T-shirts, she said.

“They buy what they want,” Logan said. “I think people have been locked up for a year, and they’re going there right now.”

On Hollywood Boulevard, streams of tourists moved along the Walk of Fame last week, photographing celebrity plaques embedded in the sidewalk, avoiding CD peddlers and posing for photos with people in superhero costumes. .

Tourists view the handprints and signatures of the stars at the TCL Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard.

Tourists view the handprints and signatures of the stars at the TCL Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Sightseeing buses and shuttles idle along the sidewalks, offering tours of celebrity homes, the Hollywood Sign, and other iconic landmarks.

Starline Tours, once Los Angeles’ largest sightseeing bus company, operates seven double-decker buses and seven smaller vans on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, with fewer vehicles the rest of the week. Drivers and passengers wear masks throughout the tours. Prior to the pandemic, Starline operated up to 24 double-decker buses and at least 16 celebrity home visiting vans every day.

Kami Farhadi, president of Starline, said private tours have become increasingly popular among his clients, about 95% of whom are from the United States.

“Business conditions appear favorable in the short term,” he said. “In the long term, we all depend on a strong majority of the American population being vaccinated quickly, before another variant of COVID-19 integrates. “

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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