Chinese come to L.A. for Kobe Bryant but stay off the beach

Tue Jan 12, 2016 7:15pm EST
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By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - As Los Angeles celebrates its fifth straight year of record-breaking tourism, officials in part can thank visitors from China who, despite their reputed disdain for lying on the beach, now make up the second-largest group of international travelers to this sun-drenched city.

In fact, China, which a decade ago was not a major player in the Southern California tourism game, last year sent nearly 800,000 people to visit the shops, museums and tourist attractions in and around America's second-largest city. And Chinese tourists often stay longer and spend more money than their counterparts from elsewhere in the world.

"There is a fascination in China for Los Angeles," Ernest Wooden, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention bureau told Reuters in an interview.

"It's easy to imagine that much of what the Chinese know about living in the United States, the slang, the hip hop the technology, comes from the movies," Wooden said. "And L.A. has that pedigree."

That fascination drove a 13 percent increase in visitors from China over 2014. Wooden said he expects the trend to continue for at least another few years, defying that country's softening economy.

Chinese travelers are also major educational tourists. Those seeking a Western education for their children often choose UCLA or the University of Southern California, which is second only to New York University in enrolling foreign-born students.

Medical tourism draws patients from China to hospitals such as Cedars Sinai, City of Hope and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, seeking cutting-edge treatments for cancer and other serious illnesses.


Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) reacts during the second half of a game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports