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Laguna Beach


Creative Tourism in Laguna Beach

Contributed by Visit Laguna Beach

For years, destinations like Laguna Beach have been a paradise for tourists looking for a beachfront getaway, a place to dine out, retreat, relax, and enjoy the beauty of the Pacific Ocean in a charming creative community that is like no other. Laguna has flourished under these premises for more than forty years. However, in the last ten years, the tourists are changing, and the activities, services and businesses they need and want are changing too. These changes are quick and quiet, and without paying proper attention to the evolving needs of contemporary tourism for areas like this, Laguna Beach businesses struggle, close, and diminish the overall popularity of Laguna Beach as a destination.

Demand is slowly gearing toward the desire for unique experiences based on originality, design, authenticity, and cultural connections. Consequently, the definition of luxury has evolved, as it is no longer solely about opulence and wealth, as the traditional understanding of luxury suggests, but is instead about experiencing a diverse and innovative environment, enhanced by a sense of belonging and style. Through an ongoing series of stimulating stories and articles, Visit Laguna Beach will be exploring the fascinating moments in our local history and community where tourism, history, art, and life intersect.

creative the hive

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

New centers like The Hive, formerly the Festival Center, combine art, dining and entertainment in one place

The concept of Creative Tourism appeared in the 2000s and was defined by Crispin Raymond and Greg Richards as a specific type of tourism that offered visitors the opportunity to develop their potential through active participation in courses and learning experiences, which are characteristic of the destination itself. This new generation of tourism involves the tourists themselves and the locals in the co-creation of the tourist products – the experiences.

The creative tourism concept, of course, may be a recent term, but the idea is not new. Creatives, artists, musicians, actors and beach lovers have been flocking to Laguna Beach since the 1880s. In 1903, a small group of artists began to settle here, eventually forming the Laguna Beach Art Association. Since then, Laguna has consistently welcomed visitors to the area, striving to offer unique and interesting experiences and attractions to its guests. In 1913, Laguna started offering campsites to its many admirers and visitors for 30 cents a night. In 1915, the Laguna Beach Gate, inviting visitors to enjoy the city, was hung and remains today at Forest and Coast Highway stating, “This gate hangs well and hinders none, refresh and rest, then travel on.” 

creative tourism gate

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Photo courtesy Visit Laguna Beach

The Laguna Beach Gate was hung in 1915

In 1932, in the thrust of the Great Depression, the first Festival of Arts took place on the heels of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, in the hopes that visitors would likely venture south to Laguna Beach for some relaxation and culture after the riveting games in LA. It became a community effort as the entire town helped to transform Laguna Beach into one seamless art event for the weeklong happening. This energy and community effort remains ever-present in this town, as a constant source for inspiration and admiration in the creative city of Laguna Beach.

It is the art and artists that contribute the most to the city’s economic and social fabric by building community, bolstering neighborhood identity, and spurring innovation and economic development. There have been many studies that have proven this, but looking back to the history of this creative and unique place shows us far more than any study. According to a recent study, over 20 percent of all Laguna Beach tourists are coming to Laguna Beach to attend a special event, art venue or festival, and whether they are day-trippers, overnighters or vacationers, on average, each travel party is spending over $100 per day. The people who come to visit Laguna Beach are participants in the culture, contributors to the local businesses, and their experiences here matter. 

creative mural

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Murals on the walls of Canyon buildings – this one by South African artist Faith XLVII – offer fresh visual perspectives to visitors

As history has shown us, Laguna Beach prides itself on offering authentic and fascinating experiences for visitors and residents alike. As a community is it important to support and help businesses that are unique and intriguing come to Laguna Beach. We all were at one-point visitors to this fair town, attracted to its distinctive offerings.

Keeping options for affordable storefronts for local businesses, a variety of lodging and housing options for its residents and visitors, various types of cuisine, entertainment and activities – these are all vital to the creative balance that Laguna Beach offers us all. With over six million visitors per year, and over 23,000 residents, keeping a balanced creative ecosystem is very important to our longevity as a creative city for visitors as well as residents. After all, as the Laguna Beach Gate reminds us, this city is meant to hinder none, offer refreshment and rest, and the opportunity to continue on or to stay a while, like we all have.

Keep an eye out for next week’s column, coming out July 6, as we dive into Laguna’s creative ecosystem, and how we are all vital components of this unique and remarkable ecosystem. 

Content for this article was collected in partnership with Laguna Creative Ventures.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Lynette Brasfield, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Stacia Stabler is our Social Media Manager & Writer.

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