L.A. Quake Forces Tourist Officials to Sell The City Again

THE Los Angeles earthquake has not stopped Mickey Mouse. Tourists can still visit Knott's Berry Farm. And, if your budget is big enough, you can find a room at the Beverly Hills Hilton.

That's the message from the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is concerned that the nightly newscasts showing huge chunks of freeway dangling in the air will slow tourism.

``We're dealing with a punishing visual image,'' says Shelby Allen, a vice president at the Bureau.

To try to convince reporters that everything is normal - or at least as normal as it ever gets in L.A. - the Bureau brought to the Big Apple representatives from 37 hotels, tourist attractions, and car-rental groups.

Their message was pretty much the same: Aside from a few broken plates and glasses at hotels, the damage was mostly in residential areas.

Ms. Allen compared the adverse publicity to the fires that recently scorched parts of Sydney. ``You would think that the entire Australian continent was on fire,'' she says.

The message is designed to ease concerns, especially among wary tourists. Allen says cancellations have cost about $308 million in business so far.

Although the city has not lost any major conventions, the bureau has lowered its forecast for the tourism industry. Instead of a 2.6 percent gain for 1994, tourism is likely to be flat. Hotel occupancy, now at 62 percent, is not likely to improve.

The city is expecting to get some federal funding to help boost tourism. The United States government has provided aid to Florida (hurricane), San Francisco (earthquake), and the Midwest (flooding) for tourism purposes. Now, some of it will go to help the LA Raiders, Goofy, and Hollywood's studios.

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