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Southern California Tourism Barometer

The Southern California Tourism Barometer developed at Arizona State University with collaboration from San Diego State University is an aggregate measure of the health of the travel and tourism industry in the Southern California megapolitan Region. A Sun Corridor Tourism Barometer for the Arizona megapolitan region was the first of this kind. A Northern California Tourism Barometer was second. Barometers for 18 other United States megapolitan regions are being developed. 

Southern California Tourism Barometer

The Southern California Tourism Barometer showed consistent growth from an average of 98.8 in 1990 to a value of 126.7 in August 2001 when the index dropped more than 15 points, reaching a five-year low point of 111.0. After this drop the index grew to its historic high of 137.8 in March 2008. The index declined to 128.3 in January 2009, where it has remained almost the same through April 2009.

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The Southern California Megapolitan Area

The Southern California megapolitan region is one of twenty megapolitan areas in the United States defined as areas that combine several metropolitan areas and expected to be the predominant geographic units for region planning in the future. These areas tie together cities, towns and counties with broader relationships among them, such as goods movement, business linkages, cultural commonality, and physical environments. Megapolitan regions are a growing force in globalization and drive the integration of continental economies into the increasingly integrated world economy. Travel and tourism is fundamental to this integration and barometers that capture the monthly trends in this industry will be important measurement tools.

The Southern California megapolitan region includes eight counties: Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura.

This and all megapolitan regions were defined by researchers at Virginia Tech in collaboration with Brookings Institute.

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Construction of the Barometer

The Southern California Tourism Barometer was developed at Arizona State University by the Megapolitan Tourism Research Center. It is the third tourism barometer, the first being a barometer for the “Sun Corridor” in Arizona. The methodologies are the same for both barometers. They are meant to give a current, deseasonalized monthly picture of the status of the industry. They each provide an index derived from four equally weighted, seasonally adjusted indicators that capture different aspects of tourism activity. Together these indicators capture trends in four very diverse tourism-related components: jobs, transportation activity, outdoor recreational activity, and international visitation. The reference point of 100 is set at June 1994 is reported on a monthly basis. The four indicators are:

  • Non-resident Arrivals to the United States: to capture the trend in international component of area tourism through national visitation;
  • National Park Visitation in the Region reported by the National Park Service: to reflect changes in the outdoor recreational activities in the megapolitan area;
  • Hospitality and Leisure Employment in the Region: to provide a measure of the arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food service  impacts of tourism; and
  • Scheduled Air Carrier Landings as reported by the FAA: to capture trends in air transportation.
  • These four variables were chosen because they each give a different perspective of the tourism industry, they are reported promptly, they are available monthly and they are available for most if not all the megapolitan regions. Visitors to the Southern California Region travel beyond the county boundaries, therefore visits to 6 national parks and monuments are included in the index. Hospitality and leisure employment is added for all eight counties in the region. Commercial aircraft landings are added for eleven airports (BFL, BUR, LAX, LGB, ONT, PMD, PSP, SAN, SBA, SMX, and SNA.

    Each of the four monthly series is deseasonalized using an X-12, ARIMA seasonal adjustment procedure that includes special treatment for outliers such as the dramatic changes in September 2001. Seasonal adjustment of the data eliminates the annual calendar patterns due to climate, vacations and business cycles.  The entire data series are re-adjusted each time new data points are added (or old data points are corrected) to ensure that any new trends and patterns are fully-captured in the seasonal adjustment process. This means that the series of values may change slightly each month. The entire revised series is posted as an Excel file.

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    Historical Behavior of the Barometer

    Graphs of the four components of the barometer illustrate their contributions to its overall trend.  After s significant drop in September 2001, seasonally adjusted commercial air carrier landings have shown a modestly increasing trend through August 2008 and then fell by more than 7% in September 2007 to about 70 thousand landings per month where it remains in April. Seasonally adjusted National Park Visits in the Southern California region has declined gradually from its peak in 1999 of 450,000 visits to is current level of about 350,000 visits per month. Seasonally adjusted leisure and hospitality employment showed steady growth, reaching a historic high point of 933,000 in March 2008. Since then, seasonally adjusted employment declined 4% to 892,000. Seasonally adjusted international arrivals to the United States showed very strong growth since their low point in October 2001 reaching a record high level in May 2008 and remaining near that level through August 2008. Since then seasonally adjusted international arrivals have declined over 12%.

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    Southern California Landings

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    Southern California Visits

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    Southern California Employment

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    Southern California Arrivals

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