Long Beach appears to be growing as a popular destination for both domestic and international travelers, according to hospitality and tourism industry experts. “It has always had the basics to do it, it was just never promoted as such,” CBRE Hotels Managing Director Bruce Baltin said.
Baltin, who lives in Long Beach, attributed the growing success of Long Beach as a destination for tourists and businesses alike to financial investments made by the city, especially in downtown and around the convention center. “The city has done a great job at continuously upgrading and updating the center,” Baltin said.
In expectation of continued, albeit slowed, growth in the national economy, Baltin said he believes visitors will continue flocking to Long Beach, but does not expect that to translate into higher occupancy rates at area hotels. “I expect a continued strong run,” Baltin said. “The reason we’re not estimating any increased occupancy is we don’t know how much more occupancy you could really accommodate.”
Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California, shared Baltin’s optimism but encouraged business owners and leaders in the industry to use this time of prosperity to ensure future growth. “The economic forecasts are really strong; [that] doesn’t mean that you step off the pedal in terms of promotion,” Beteta said. “You’re either growing or you’re dying in a business, and tourism destination marketing is no different.”
To maximize Long Beach’s appeal to visitors in 2019, Beteta suggested emphasizing the individuality of the city and promoting experiences exclusive to Long Beach, like the Aquarium’s new Pacific Visions project. “Going local and having authentic experiences are really, really important [offerings],” Beteta said.
She pointed out the growing potential of “bleisure” or combining business and leisure. Visitors seeking to expand the value of their vacation days tack them onto a business trip. As a result, “even site selection [staff are] looking at the popularity of destinations to make sure that their conventions are popular and successful,” Beteta said. Overall, she remained hopeful that the industry would see continued success in California. “We’re coming off of eight consecutive years of record spending from visitors, so we’re always looking for a down-cycle, but our projections are coming in pretty strong,” Beteta said.
With a number of new attractions and hospitality businesses expected to open this year, including Pacific Visions and multiple new hotels, local stakeholders are expecting Long Beach to further cash in on its potential as a tourism destination.
President, Catalina Express
We have seen the city reinvent itself over our 29 years of operation in Downtown with a focus on tourism and re-investment in infrastructure. As the Long Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau showcases the city as a leading destination for business and leisure, Long Beach has seen a rise in visitation. Continuous development to Downtown and prominent attractions, including the Queen Mary and Aquarium of the Pacific, draw visitors, resulting in a positive economic impact to surrounding companies. With 57% of our passengers departing from Long Beach, we have learned that visitors are interested in daytrips to Catalina Island including convention attendees looking for a post-meeting getaway. Catalina Express partners with local hotels to feature Catalina as an accessible day activity, which grows in popularity. With great weather and constant growth on the Island, Catalina Express experienced a successful year, carrying 1.2 million passengers. We have seen an increase in out-of-state passengers, and even out of the country, especially Canada, the United Kingdom and South Korea. Sure to continue this trend is the opening of the Catalina Island Conservancy’s Trailhead, the gateway to 42,000 acres of Catalina preserved land. As these efforts by Long Beach partners come to fruition, 2019 stands to be successful for the city and Catalina Express.
President & CEO, Long Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
In 2018 the city had its best year ever in its history, with overnight visitors contributing $28.6 million to our city’s general fund, representing an 8% increase over last year, and a 130% increase over the year 2002. 2019 is on track to do even better! We are forecasting a 2% growth in average daily rate and a 1.5% increase in revenue per occupied rooms for our Long Beach hotels. But the best news is what’s coming in 2020 and 2021. The opening of the Breakers Hotel, an upscale boutique property next to the Convention Center, the Cambria Hotel downtown on Pine Avenue, and the Staybridge Suites at the Long Beach Airport will give the city the ability to attract new and larger conventions and more visitors. The CVB is already selling these new properties to potential clients and the city will feel the positive economic impact well into future years.
Jerry R. Schubel, Ph.D.
President & CEO, Aquarium of the Pacific
This will be a busy year for the Aquarium of the Pacific – and one of the most significant since the facility opened in 1998 – due to the opening of Pacific Visions. This new wing is an unconventional expansion for an aquarium, and we think visitors will be fascinated by the experience. It will include an art gallery that takes you on a journey through coral reefs and brings to life the intricate world of microscopic plankton through visuals, sounds, and touchable sculptures. Next, visitors enter the pre-show area and then the Honda Pacific Visions Theater with 300 seats and a massive curved screen, where they will be inspired to imagine our planet’s future. Finally, visitors will explore the culmination gallery to come together around high-tech interactives and a 50-foot-long interactive projection wall to learn about our planet’s resources and how humans can impact the future. This gallery will also include live animal exhibits. Pacific Visions will increase the Aquarium’s visitor capacity from 1.7 to 2 million people annually. We expect everyone, from locals to international travelers, to be eager to experience Pacific Visions, and that this will ripple out to other hospitality and tourism businesses in Long Beach.
Chief Development Officer, Urban Commons
As 2019 dawns, the staff and crew of Long Beach’s iconic Queen Mary could not be more excited about the upcoming year. The City is undergoing a true renaissance as people from all over discover the unique and welcoming environment that Long Beach offers.
Just as the Queen Mary reinvented itself with renovations to the ship’s restaurants, tours and entertainment offerings – along with waterfront concerts featuring Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube – Long Beach has seen new life in our community due to an endless array of options for leisure and work-based travelers.
The convention center, led by Steve Goodling, epitomizes the changing perception of the City with newly modernized facilities rivaling its largest competitors and successfully enticing industry-leading conferences to relocate from more well-known complexes.
Downtown Long Beach is now a tourists’ playground with countless restaurants and a dynamic nightlife, connected by convenient public transit and ubiquitous bike and walking paths.
These elements add up to one thing – people! Local, international and regional tourists are streaming into Long Beach, spending money at our hotels and shops. And the Queen Mary is honored to be part of what Long Beach has become and a what appears to be a limitless future!