California has been the number one travel destination in the United States for a number of years. In 2002, tourism was the state's 3rd-largest employer and, with travel expenditures of over $75 billion per year, the tourist industry is the fifth-largest contributor to GSP. In support of the industry, the state adopted the California Tourism Marketing Act in 1995. This marketing referendum of California businesses established the California Travel and Tourism Commission (CTTC) and a statewide marketing fund derived from mandatory assessments. The California Tourism Program, a joint venture between the CTTC and the California Division of Tourism, has succeeded so well that it is being look to as a model program by other states. From 1998-2002, the state saw increased visitor spending of $8.7 billion dollars and created 120,833 new tourism-related jobs.
In 2002, the state hosted about 318 domestic travelers and 8 million international visitors. Overseas visitors that year (about 4.5 million) were primarily from Japan, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Germany, and France. Nearly 3 million travelers were from Mexico and about 870,000 were from Canada. In 2002, it was estimated that 1,030,000 people are employed in the tourism industry. There are 11 Official California Welcome Centers within the state. There are also five international travel trade offices (in Brazil, Australia, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
While the state's mild, sunny climate and varied scenery of seacoast, mountains, and desert lure many visitors, the San Francisco and Los Angeles metropolitan areas offer the most popular tourist attractions. San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown, and Ghirardelli Square are popular for shopping and dining; tourists also frequent the city's unique cable cars, splendid museums, Opera House, and Golden Gate Bridge. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area, comprising 68 sq mi (176 sq km) on both sides of the entrance to San Francisco Bay, includes Fort Point in the Presidio park, Alcatraz Island (formerly a federal prison) in the bay, the National Maritime Museum with seven historic ships, and the Muir Woods, located 17 mi (27 km) north of the city. South of the city, the rugged coastal scenery of the Monterey peninsula attracts many visitors; to the northeast, the wineries of the Sonoma and Napa valleys offer their wares for sampling and sale.
The Los Angeles area has the state's principal tourist attractions: the Disneyland amusement center at Anaheim, and Hollywood, which features visits to motion picture and television studios and sightseeing tours of film stars' homes in Beverly Hills. One of Hollywood's most popular spots is Mann's (formerly Grauman's) Chinese Theater, where the impressions of famous movie stars' hands and feet (and sometimes paws or hooves) are embedded in concrete. The New Year's Day Tournament of Roses at Pasadena is an annual tradition. Southwest of Hollywood, the Santa Monica Mountain National Recreation Area was created by Congress in 1978 as the country's largest urban park, covering 150,000 acres (61,000 hectares). The Queen Mary ocean liner, docked at Long Beach, is now a marine-oceanographic exposition center and hotel-convention complex.
The rest of the state offers numerous tourist attractions, including some of the largest and most beautiful national parks in the US. In the north are Redwood National Park and Lassen Volcanic National Park. In east-central California, situated in the Sierra Nevada, are Yosemite National Park, towering Mt. Whitney in Sequoia National Park, and Lake Tahoe on the Nevada border. About 80 mi (129 km) east of Mt. Whitney is Death Valley. Among the popular tourist destinations in southern California are the zoo and Museum of Man in San Diego's Balboa Park and the Mission San Juan Capistrano, to which, according to tradition, the swallows return each spring. The San Simeon mansion and estate of the late William Randolph Hearst are now state historical monuments.