Tourism to California has grown for the eighth consecutive year, despite natural disasters including wildfires and mudslides.
Speaking at IPW in Denver on Tuesday (May 22), Caroline Beteta, president of Visit California, revealed visitors spent $132.4 billion in California last year, marking 4.8% growth year-on-year.
In 2017, the state welcomed 17.6 million international visitors, 680,000 of whom were from the UK.
The UK is California’s fourth largest international market behind Mexico, Canada and China.
“We are the number one tourist destination in the US and are seeing overall growth across the globe,” said Beteta.
She said ease of accessibility was a major reason for the jump in visitor numbers, with 10.8% growth in international airline seats in 2017.
Beteta predicted that international visitor spending would increase by a further 4.1% in 2018.
The state will meet visitor demand by adding 60 new hotels next year, accounting for 17,000 new hotel rooms.
She acknowledged “the hand of Mother Nature” had been hard on the state this year - part of Highway One remains closed after droughts and rainstorms caused mudslides.
The road is expected to reopen by September this year.
Meanwhile, devastating wildfires in Wine Country and the Central Coast also caused travel issues for tourists.
Beteta was keen to reinforce the message that tourism infrastructure is now back up and running: “We have 12,000 wineries in Napa and Sonoma, but less than 12 were partially damaged in the overall landscape," she said.
"Less than 10% of wine country was absolutely damaged, and 90% of the grapes had already been harvested."
She also heralded the success of Visit California’s crowd-sourced ‘Share The Love’ campaign, a film addressing the natural disasters in Napa, Sonoma, Santa Barbara and Ventura, while showcasing the best of the destinations and what they have to offer.