Strain for City Services, Boost for Tourism

The Michael Jackson memorial might strain city services, but tourism officials are welcoming the rush of visitors.

Hotels, restaurants, tourist destinations and airlines reported a massive jump over the weekend in business and reservations foresee a continued surge they hope will jolt the local economy -- at least for a few days, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The throngs of visitors -- some flying into Los Angeles from Europe -- could give the local economy a $4 million boost in the form of hotel billings, rates, restaurant tabs and souvenir sales, Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., told The Times.

Many airline flights to Los Angeles and hotels near Staples Center were booked solid by Monday. The influx of fans of the late pop singer has had a ripple effect that has reached as far as Pasadena and Long Beach, where hotels reported an increase in bookings this weekend, according to The Times.

As many as 1 million Jackson fans -- with or without tickets -- are expected to be in Los Angeles for the memorial, according to the Los Angeles Police Department, and restaurants in downtown Los Angeles are bracing for
multitudes, The Times reported.

"The magnitude of this event is 10 to 100 times of any other event we've had," John Kelly, general manager of the Holiday Inn across the street from the arena where the public memorial is to be held, told The Times.

Within 48 hours of Thursday's announcement that a memorial would be held at Staples Center, all 195 rooms at the hotel were booked, Kelly said.

At the Hilton Checkers in downtown Los Angeles, general manager Kathy Faulk told The Times that her hotel usually has an occupancy rate of about 60 percent during this time of year, but thanks to the Jackson memorial, her
occupancy rate was above 80 per cent over the weekend.

Downtown hotels were quickly filling. Police, trying to avoid a mob scene, warned those without tickets to stay away because they would not be able to get close to the Staples Center.

All those involved say the heart of Los Angeles will become a circus. In one way, that characterization will be literal.

Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey starts a run at Staples Center on Wednesday, a booking long planned in advance. In the pre-dawn hours before Jackson's memorial, the elephants started walking from the train station to the arena. They were set to arrive some five hours before the memorial.

Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton said Tuesday on CBS' "The Early Show" the department would have more officers on the streets of downtown for the memorial service than it had for last month's Lakers victory parade.

Bratton said officers "really just do not know how may people will actually show up" and that officers "are prepared for anything."

The King of Pop was pronounced dead June 25 at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, about two hours after he was found in full cardiac arrest at the Holmby Hills mansion where he had been preparing for 50 sold-out concerts
in London.

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