As Competition Heats Up, City Committee Explores the Future of Pasadena's Tourism Industry

Pasadena City committee seeks fresh ideas on tourism; local leaders, business owners to weigh in on keeping up with other local cities

Published : Wednesday, February 7, 2018 | 6:47 AM

Pasadena Tourist Spot

Given the fact that much of the civilized world watches the Tournament of Roses Parade cruise down Colorado Boulevard on TV every New Year’s Day before tuning in to the Rose Bowl game, one might think that Pasadena tourism is such a well-oiled machine in the City of Roses that it automatically runs itself.

But in today’s world, competition has never been more, well, competitive, as nearby cities, larger and smaller, fight to attract the same tourist dollars virtually every day of the year.

So today, a City committee is huddling with invited leaders of the Pasadena’s business and tourism community to explore Pasadena’s economic and financial future with regard to attracting travelers and visitors.

“A big part of Pasadena’s economy involves visitors and tourism,” explained Councilmember Victor Gordo Tuesday. “More and more cities around us are competing for that business, so I believe it’s important to communicate directly with the business community to see if we, as a city, can do things differently, or if we can work with our local businesses to complement their efforts, to ensure that Pasadena continues to enjoy a vibrant local economy.”

“Members of the Committee believe strongly that we as a city should be prepared to change,” said Gordo, “or even implement new efforts. They’ll make a difference in how we draw and attract people to our local businesses. This has not been done previously, but it should be, given the intense competition we face as a city from other cities, like Glendale, from Arcadia, and Los Angeles.

“More and more,” Gordo continued, “Pasadena is competing for its share of the regional economy and we have to do things differently.”

Gordo pointed to “what’s happening in downtown Los Angeles” as a major source of new pressure for Pasadena to up its game.

For Pasadena, tourism means revenue, which Eric Duyshart,the City’s Economic Development Manager, tracks like a hunter.

“The tourism industry is very important to the city of Pasadena between our Rose Bowl, the Convention Center, the museums, and hotels,” Duyshart told Pasadena Now Tuesday.

A large number of Pasadenans rely on a healthy tourism segment for either their business’s vitality or for their employment, he said.

“Because it’s also a priority from the City of Pasadena, as far as economic development strategy, we also want to reach out to those same groups, businesses, institutions to make sure that we hear them and we maintain the dialogue,” Duyshart said.

Michael Ross, Chief Executive Officer of the Pasadena Center Operating Company (PBOC), also understands the need for tourism and the dynamics of the local market like few others.

Running the Pasadena Center Operating Company also means managing not only the Pasadena Convention Center, but the Civic Auditorium, the Ice Rink, and the Convention Visitors Bureau as well.

“It’s a busy job that’s for sure,” Ross confirmed. “Our goal is to continue to bring visitors to Pasadena whether it be through events at the Convention Center, whether it be leisure promotions, or events. We try to work with everybody.”

From where Ross sits, the skies for now are clear and the forecast is sunny, but he knows that attracting visitors is something the City must maintain.

“Pasadena’s done well for the last several years in terms of attracting visitors,” noted Ross, “and obviously with a little help from the events that take place at the Convention Center. The Convention Center’s very, very busy with convention groups, and we work well with the Rose Bowl in all of their events and again, in attracting visitors to Pasadena.”

“We’re a world class city,” Ross affirmed. “So we’ll continue to evolve, and obviously, having major events that the world gets to see helps. You can’t beat New Year’s day when people all around the world, all around the United States are watching our perfect weather with our beautiful parade and game afterwards.”

But over at the Convention Center, says Ross, it’s all about science and engineering, two of Pasadena’s strong suits. ‘

“We’re able to go after so many scientific and engineering type of events due to the fact that we have JPL and Caltech here.”

Along with those attributes, Ross cites other new developments keeping Pasadena attractive.

“I think that the city is evolving,” he said Tuesday. “We have some new hotel product coming on, and obviously there are a number of new developments with the the Kaiser Medical School. So there’s a number of good things happening in Pasadena to keep us competitive, so again, we continue to evolve and attract travelers.”

So far so good, according the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce.

“I think we’re doing a pretty good job, honestly,” said Chamber CEO Paul Little. “Our hotel occupancy rate’s pretty strong and we have, over the last two years seen an increase in visitors, so I think that’s positive. The Convention Center has been attracting interesting groups and so they get a lot of attention, which is really nice. “

According to Little, Pasadena punches well in its weight class.

“I think for a city our size in the shadow of the behemoth of Los Angeles [and] 30 miles from the beach, we have a lot to offer, and attract a good number of visitors who are looking forward for exactly what we have,” he said.

“But you can’t say, ‘Okay, we’re doing great now, so we’ll just keep cruising, doing what we’re doing.’ The marketplace is changing,” said Little, “and the nature of travelers are changing, what people are looking for is changing, and the experiences, they’re wanting is evolving as well.”

The City Council Economic Development and Technology Committee meets every third Tuesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. Pasadena City Hall Council Conference Room S245/S246, 2nd Floor. 100 N. Garfield Avenue, Pasadena.

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