LA is the first city in the world to be permitted to open an office in China

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the president of LA INC. The Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, Mark Liberman.Before an audience of Chinese officials and a delegation of Los Angeles business and elected leaders, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the president of LA INC. The Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, Mark Liberman, formally opened the first city-level tourism office licensed to operate in China.

Over the course of the past year, in cooperation with Chinese Consul General, Zhong Jian Hua, Mayor Villaraigosa and Mark Liberman met with the management of the China National Tourism Administration, Chinese carriers and government officials. They secured for Los Angeles the first of what is likely to be a growing number of tourism offices representing U.S. cities eager to position themselves to compete for the world's largest international travel market. The office represents both LA INC. and Los Angeles World Airports.

"The tourism industry is critical to the economic health of Los Angeles "“ employing hundreds of thousands of Angelenos and pumping billions into our local economy," said Mayor Villaraigosa. "With the opening of the new tourism office in Beijing, Los Angeles is putting down a permanent welcome mat for the tens of millions of Chinese tourists who will visit our great city in the coming years. More tourism means more jobs and a healthier economy."

China is currently the fastest growing international visitor market to LA. Between 2005 and 2008, tourism analysts predict inbound travel from China to the U.S. will expand by 46 percent. It is estimated that 176 million residents of China have the financial means to travel and it is expected that this number will increase by 50 million within the next five years.

"The Los Angeles visitor industry just couldn't sit still knowing that the world's largest country is poised to become the largest source of international travelers on the globe," said Mark Liberman. "The Chinese traveler will have an enormous impact on those destinations that demonstrate the right mix of quality, communication and commitment. Los Angeles plans to lead the way."

The potential for Chinese travelers to specifically target Los Angeles as their primary destination is promising. As home to the second largest Chinese-American community in the United States, Los Angeles can expect to receive a significant number of visiting friends and relatives. In 2005, LA welcomed 83,000 Chinese visitors. With 19 weekly nonstop flights from China to Los Angeles, 360,000 passengers will have the ability to visit LA annually. Los Angeles International Airport is the only U.S. airport serviced by all three national Chinese airlines — Air China, China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines.

LA INC. The Los Angeles Convention and Visitors bureau is recognized as the city's official tourism marketing agency whose primary mission is to market and promote Los Angeles as the premier location for meetings, conventions and leisure travel. For more information, please visit the official visitor information Web site of Los Angeles,