The New York Times might think that Los Angeles is a bizarre land, but millions of Americans and people from other parts of the world really do seem to love L.A.

We love it, too.

The Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board (a.k.a. L.A. Tourism) announced this week that a record 44.2 million visitors came to L.A. last year. They spend a record amount, too: $19.6 billion, nearly 7 percent more than they dropped here last year.

Tourism employs to 1 in 9 Angelenos, is the job growth leader in Los Angeles, and put $2.3 billion in state and local tax coffers, L.A. Tourism says.

Why is it booming?

The folks at the board told us they've increased marketing efforts at home and abroad, with China getting a taste of L.A. tourism advertising for the first time ever last year.

What's more, visitors from China are freer to visit L.A. repeatedly as a result of a federal 10-year visa waiver policy.

And Los Angeles is perhaps the beneficiary of an improving economy, “increased consumer confidence” and lower fuel prices that have resulted in less expensive travel by car and plane alike, a spokesman for L.A. Tourism says.

The crush of tourists, however, is inspiring L.A. Tourism and some city leaders to call for more development.

Credit: steve/L.A. Weekly Flickr pool

Credit: steve/L.A. Weekly Flickr pool

More hotel rooms (occupancy is now nearly 80 percent), LAX expansion and Convention Center expansion could fill the bill, L.A. Tourism officials say.

In a city that has the worst roads and the least affordable housing in the nation, is investing in tourism worth it? Here's Mayor Eric Garcetti's take:

A shining star of our local economy, the tourism industry continues to thrive, supporting good-paying jobs for our families and generating significant revenue for our city’s vital public services.

The tourism board would like to see us get to 50 million visitors by 2020.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow L.A. Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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