Special Report: Tut and Tourism This Summer

Norman Sklarewitz Booming tourism and the opening of a museum exhibition are rarely mentioned in the same breath. But that’s the way it is these days in Los Angeles. There “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs” has just begun its five-month run at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

By: Norman Sklarewitz

Booming tourism and the opening of a museum exhibition are rarely mentioned in the same breath. But that’s the way it is these days in Los Angeles.

There “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs” has just begun its five-month run at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). And what a kick-off it was a press conference that drew journalists representing publications from all over the world; a glittering pre-opening party for some 900 that including red-carpet celebrities and paparazzi; an Egyptian-themed rooftop preview party attended by some 800 guests; and perhaps more importantly, an advance sale of 300,000 tickets at $30 a pop. Before the exhibit closes on Nov. 15, attendance may well top one million.

Savvy travel agents will benefit from all the hoopla in encouraging clients to consider Egypt as a destination or so suggested His Excellency Ahmed El-Maghraby, minister of tourism for the Arab Republic of Egypt.

“This exhibition will have a major impact on tourism to Egypt,” he told TravelAge West, predicting a “major surge” in visitors from the U.S. this year. U.S. arrivals could hit half a million after the end of King Tut’s 27-month-long tour of the U.S., El-Maghraby said.

“Americans love antiquities,” he said with a smile.

Accommodations are ready for the increased demand, too, according to El-Maghraby. Currently Egypt offers some 148,000 hotel rooms up to international standards and new builds are pushing that figure up to 160,000.

If the King Tut exhibition sounds like no other museum display you’ve ever heard of, that’s because it is. For one thing, a main objective is to make money with some of the proceeds going to help underwrite more exploration in Egypt and the building of more museums.

Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities and National Geographic’s Explorer-in-Residence, hopes to see $35 million for a variety of archeological and display projects.

“No more free exhibits,” he smiled referring to the past practice of Egypt loaning its priceless artifacts to American museums without charge. “Now is the time to pay for your dinner.”

The AEG, one of the world’s largest producers and promoters of live events, is a key organizer of the Tut tour. Its experience in putting on rock concerts and big-name Las Vegas shows is clearly reflected in the high energy and super-hype involved in the exhibition.

Quipped Timothy J. Leiweke, president and CEO of AEG: “Putting on an exhibit like this is similar to a Rolling Stones concert or a farewell tour by Cher.”

Other sponsors are National Geographic and Arts and Exhibitions International and the Northern Trust Corporation.

All the excitement and attention generated by the opening of the King Tut exhibition on June 16 essentially took local tourism officials by surprise.

“We expected the King Tut exhibition to be a strong event for the summer, but not the scope it has grown to be,” said Richard Petersen, senior director, travel industry and tourism development for LA Inc., the Los Angeles Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We are absolutely thrilled at the excitement and the attention given not only to LACMA, but to our destination as a cultural community.”

Petersen said LA Inc. estimates the local tourism industry will enjoy as much as $170 million generated by visitors and locals for hotel stays, restaurants, local transportation, souvenirs and attendance at other area attractions.

“The Tut show will only spur new interest in the arts and culture society that L.A. has to offer, but to other attractions as well,” said Petersen. “We’re looking at the Tut exhibit as a wonderful catalyst.”

Following the close of its L.A. run, the 130-artifact exhibition moves on to the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale opening in December, then in May 2006 it opens at The Field Museum in Chicago before winding down its U.S. tour at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, in February 2007.


Two Coffins and Mummy of Shepenmehyt at the Bowers Museum


Of immediate sales interest to agents are special King Tut promotional packages offered by 11 local hotels. These packages include tickets to the blockbuster exhibit. In addition, upon check-in, package guests will receive coupon booklets full of discounts on more than 25 L.A.-area attractions.
The hotels offering King Tut promotions are:

DoubleTree Hotel, Westwood: Its TUTrific Place to Stay package offers 15 percent off published weekday and weekend rates for standard rooms. (800-222-8733, 310-475-8711; www.doubletree.com)

Four Points by Sheraton LAX: Deluxe accommodations and daily parking from $129 per night weeknights and $89 per night Friday through Sunday nights. (888-625-5144; 310-645-4600; www.fourpointslax.com)

Holiday Inn LAX/South Bay: The King Tut promotional offer includes 20 percent off published rates, plus additional perks such as complimentary breakfast, airport shuttle and parking. (800-315-2621, 310-676-1111; www.hiexpress.com)

Le Meridien at Beverly Hills: Nightly promotional rates start at $219 per night at this luxury hotel located five minutes from LACMA. (800-543-4300, 310-247-0400; www.beverlyhills.lemeridien.com)

Luxe Hotel Sunset Blvd: King Tut Spa package at $299 per night, includes deluxe accommodations, a complimentary welcome glass of wine or cappuccino, two aromatherapy massages and a morning newspaper. A room-only package starts at $149 per night. (866-589-3411, 310-476-6571; www.luxehotelsunsetblvd.com)

Omni Los Angeles Hotel: Deluxe accommodations for two with King Tut exhibit tickets from $179 per night. (800-843-6664, 213-617-3300; www.omnihotels.com)

Renaissance Hollywood Hotel: Its nightly $269 promotional rate includes deluxe accommodations, valet parking and two King Tut exhibit tickets. Ask for phone rate code: ECER or Web rate
code: PES. (800-627-7468, 323-856-1200; www.renaissancehollywood.com)

Renaissance Montura Hotel, Los Angeles: At $199 per night, includes accommodations; authentic, Egyptian-style cuisine for two; a hand-carved Egyptian welcome gift; and access to tickets and transportation to the King Tut exhibit. Room-only packages are available for $129 per night. (800-627-7468, 310-337-2800; www.marriott.com/renaissancehotels)

Sheraton Universal Hotel: On the lot at Universal Studios Hollywood. Deluxe accommodations for two from $199 per night, including two tickets to the King Tut exhibit. (888-625-5144, 818-980-1212; www.sheraton.com)

Sportsmen’s Lodge Hotel: In the San Fernando Valley. Package starting at $177 per night includes a city view room, hotel parking and two tickets to the King Tut exhibit. Guests staying three nights receive a fourth night free. (800-821-8511, 818-769-4700; www.slhotel.com)

Wilshire Grand Los Angeles: In downtown L.A. Promotional rate of $119 per night includes accommodations for two in an Executive Level room with Executive Club privileges and overnight parking. (888-773-2888, 213-688-7777; www.wilshiregrand.com)

For more information on hotels and offers: www.seemyla.com
For more information on the King Tut exhibit: www.kingtut.org



While King Tut is getting a lot of the attention, the O.C. has its own hot mummy show. “Mummies: Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt,” opened at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana to a record-breaking crowd of more than 1,200 people, and with each passing day, the exhibition continues to break museum attendance records.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Bowers Museum president Peter Keller. “The response to this exhibition has been overwhelming. It’s truly one of the most spectacular exhibitions we’ve ever had and we anticipate more and more people coming to see it.”

Mummies: Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt features 140 objects, including 14 mummies and/or coffins, and is the largest exhibition of its kind to be shown by the British Museum outside of Britain. The exhibition focuses on embalming, coffins, sarcophagi, shabti figures, magic and ritual, amulets, papyri, as well as the process of mummification. In the other words, all the cool, gory details we want to know!

Special group discount rates, are available.

E-mail: grouptours@bowers.com