'La La Land' gives a lift to Los Angeles tourism
By HUGO MARTIN | Los Angeles Times | Published: April 13, 2017
LOS ANGELES -- “La La Land” didn’t bring home the best picture Oscar, but the musical filmed in Southern California is expected to bring the region another valuable prize: a bump in big-spending tourists.
Like previous films set in the City of Angels, the hugely popular movie has boosted the city’s profile worldwide, raising the prospects of drawing new visitors to eat, sleep and shop in Los Angeles, tourism industry officials say.
The film starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling is a love story with cameo appearances from several tourist spots, including the Griffith Observatory, Chinatown, the Watts Towers and Angels Flight.
“The city may be the film’s biggest star,” said Don Skeoch, chief marketing officer for Discover Los Angeles, the city’s tourism agency. “We believe fans will become inspired by what they see and want to visit and learn about the iconic locations.”
Los Angeles tour guides, restaurant managers and at least two visitor surveys show that “La La Land” may already be helping to boost the region’s surging $20.6 billion tourism industry.
“People are just asking about it,” Danny Roman, who operates the Hollywood-based Bikes & Hikes tour company, said of the movie. “They are curious about it. They say, ‘Where did they film this? Where did they do that?’”
As a result, Roman’s tours have added a stop at the hilltop in Griffith Park where Stone and Gosling danced overlooking the lights of Burbank.
A survey conducted by the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board of nearly 400 adults in the U.S. who saw the movie found that 86 percent described themselves as “more likely” or “much more likely” to visit L.A.
Another survey by Fandango, the nation’s largest online movie ticket seller, found that 64 percent of the more than 1,000 millennials who were questioned said the movie made them want to visit Los Angeles.
Both surveys were taken in February, about the time that “La La Land” won six Academy Awards including best lead performance by an actress for Stone.
Hopes for a tourism bump come amid concern by travel industry representatives that potential business and pleasure travelers from foreign countries are being turned off by the Trump administration’s travel restrictions on six Muslim-majority countries, its temporary ban on all refugees and its plan to build a wall on the border with Mexico.
Global Business Travel Association, a trade group for the world’s business travel managers, surveyed 324 corporate travel managers recently and found that 37 percent of U.S. respondents and 47 percent of European managers said they expected travel to the U.S. to decline because of the travel ban.
Los Angeles tourism has been growing, setting records six years in a row. Last year, L.A. County hosted 47.3 million visitors in 2016, a 4-percent increase over the previous year.
If “La La Land” is a tourism hit, it wouldn’t be the first time that a movie has lured sightseers.
“Just as product placements will influence a viewer’s attitude toward a brand, so too will films have an impact on destination images if the location plays a part in a film,” University of Calgary professors Simon Hudson and J.R. Brent Ritchie wrote in a research paper on film tourism that was published in the Journal of Travel Research in 2006.
In 1986, the movie “Crocodile Dundee,” about a bushman from the land Down Under, was credited with helping boost visits to Australia’s Northern Territory, where parts of the comedy were filmed.
Last year, during the 30th anniversary of the release of “Crocodile Dundee,” Australian tourism officials reported a 20 percent jump in visits for the year to Kakadu, the area in northern Australia where many of the backcountry scenes were filmed. U.S. and British visitors represented the biggest increase in international visitors, according to Australian tourism officials.
New Zealand also reported steady growth in visitors following the release in 2001 of the first of several “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” movies, which featured panoramic outdoor New Zealand vistas.
The three “Lord of the Rings” movies opened in 2001, 2002 and 2003, followed by three “Hobbit” movies in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
As recently as 2013, a tourism study by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research concluded that an ongoing marketing campaign, dubbed the “Middle-earth” campaign, continues to draw in visitors from Britain and the United States who want to see the film locations from those movies.
Visitation numbers grew 6.1 percent in 2013 over the previous year, the fastest rise in a decade.
Tourism continues to grow so fast in New Zealand that news reports say the country faces a shortage of hotel rooms to accommodate all the visitors.
Since December, Discover Los Angeles has ferried groups of reporters from China, Australia, Britain, Canada and the U.S. to some of the sites shown in “La La Land,” including Griffith Park and Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles.
Discover Los Angeles even has created a “La La Land” website, which guides visitors to landmarks from the movie.
On tour buses operated by Hollywood-based Starline Tours, visitors have mentioned the film so often that Southern California’s biggest tour company is considering creating a tour specifically to feature “La La Land” sites, Starline Tours spokeswoman Susan Wilson said.
“I think there are opportunities all over the place,” she said.
Guests on Starline tours often ask to see Angels Flight, the iconic funicular in downtown Los Angeles that was shown in the film, and Griffith Observatory, where Stone and Gosling performed a fantasy dance sequence. (The railway has been closed since a derailment accident in 2013 but plans are in the works to reopen the line by Labor Day.)
The Jar, a hip, retro restaurant on Beverly Boulevard, was featured in the movie in a scene where Stone’s character dumps her boyfriend to see a movie with Gosling’s character.
The eatery is known for its pot roast and pork chops, but lately guests come looking for the exact table where Stone sat during the scene, restaurant manager Rosie Sanchez said.
“It literally happens three or four times a week,” she said. “’La La Land’ has had quite an impact for us.”