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Hotel Renovations and Expansions During 2007 Produce a Small Gain
in Hotel Meeting Space in Orange County, California; Disneyland Hotel
the Largest with 136,000 square feet of Space
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By Sandi Cain
Orange County Business Journal Staff

January 2008 - Hotel renovations and expansions drove a small gain in hotel meeting space in Orange County, California in the past year.

The county’s 50 largest hotels reported a 2% increase in meeting space to 1.2 million square feet, according to this week’s Business Journal list, which ranks hotels by the square footage of their permanent indoor meeting space.

The increase came without any full-service hotels opening in the past year. Two hotels returned to the list after expanding their meeting space.

The former Fullerton Marriott, now a Crowne Plaza, almost tripled its space to 15,000 square feet and returns to the list at No. 29. Don Percy, general manager at the Crowne Plaza Fullerton, said the hotel primarily relies on local corporate business to fill meeting space.
 

Top Three Hotels Ranked by
Meeting Space square footage
Orange County, California
1. Disneyland Hotel  136,000 square feet
2. Hilton Anaheim 100,000 square feet
3. Anaheim Marriott   82,580 square feet

The Doubletree Guest Suites in Dana Point, which dropped off the list in 2001 as new and bigger hotels opened, returns at No. 38. The hotel in March is set to open a 5,000-square-foot conference center. The Doubletree moved forward with the conference center due to demand that exceeded its capacity, according to director of sales Todd Wheeler.

Disneyland Hotel retained its firm grip on the No. 1 spot with 136,000 square feet of space. 

When the hotel opened in 1965, it also had the largest meeting space in the city—a 2,500-square-foot suite.

Another Walt Disney Co. hotel, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, is undergoing an expansion that will add 203 guest rooms and 50 Disney Vacation Club timeshare suites. It ranks No. 23 for meeting space with 20,000 square feet.

Construction won’t interfere with any existing guest rooms or meeting areas, said Robert Donahue, director of groups and conventions for the Grand Californian. 

“The positive side is that meeting planners will be able to book more guest rooms (when it’s complete),” Donahue said. 

He said the Disneyland hotels are expecting 2008 to be a good year, but not a great one. 

“So far we’re on track with our plans but cautious as broader economic news develops,” he said.

But better hotel rooms and bigger meeting space aren’t the only things meeting planners are looking for. Donahue said he has seen an increase in requests from planners for information about the hotel’s green efforts. 

The Hilton Anaheim, the county’s largest hotel by rooms, held its No. 2 ranking on the list with 100,000 square feet of meeting space. That’s up a bit from what was reported last year because of an ongoing renovation. The first phase finished in November.

“Meeting planners are astounded at the changes,” said director of sales and marketing Brad Logsdon. “The whole ambience is now more contemporary.”

The Hilton also reconfigured its two outdoor pool decks that are often used for luncheons and receptions. Each one now has 20,000 square feet of space for functions.

No. 3 Anaheim Marriott opened its newest ballroom last spring to bring its total space to 82,580 square feet. The additional space helps some of the largest convention groups stay in Anaheim. 

In all, the top 10 hotels account for 51% of the meeting space on the list.

Hotels frequently make small changes to meeting space, converting a small room to an office or a suite to a boardroom. 

But it’s the big changes that caused some jumping in this year’s list.

Hotels that moved up on this year’s list due to increases of 1,000 square feet or more included No. 14 Laguna Cliffs Marriott in Dana Point, and No. 30 Montage Resort & Spa in Laguna Beach.

Laguna Cliffs Marriott added almost 5,000 square feet by converting a downstairs area into meeting space.

Montage moved up one spot on the strength of dedicated meeting foyers that previously weren’t counted but used exclusively for group functions. 

Convention hoteliers contacted for this story were optimistic about 2008 based on the success of 2007. 

“NAMM bookings were way up over 2007,” said Jeff Protzman, general manager of the Doubletree Hotel Anaheim/Orange County, referring to the large music industry show held last week. 

In Newport Beach, the Fairmont reported a 20% increase in group bookings for this year.

Coastal resorts told pretty much the same story.

“Business is as strong as other years, despite negative (economic) news,” said James Bermingham, general manager at Montage.

The mortgage meltdown has resulted in the loss of some group business at hotels—like Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach and the Surf & Sand Resort in Laguna Beach, which catered to the sector—as mortgage companies downsized and real estate companies put off staging some meetings.

“It had a moderate impact on us,” said Blaisé Bartell, general manager at Surf & Sand. “It was a niche market for us.” 

Bartell also has noticed a slightly slower booking pace for 2008—particularly in the corporate sector.

That slowdown can’t be attributed to new hotels increasing competition as the only new offerings on the horizon won’t be open until later this year. The Resort at Pelican Hill is set to open with 20,000 square feet of meeting space, which will place it in a tie for the 
No. 23 spot with the Grand Californian and Knott’s Berry Farm Resort Hotel on 2008’s list.

A 288-room Sheraton hotel is set to open in Garden Grove this spring with 8,000 square feet of meeting space, which would rank it at No. 42 on the current list.

Those new hotels would bump the Wyndham at Orange County Performing Artscenter and the Jolly Roger Inn/Portofino Inn & Suites off the list. 

The Jolly Roger Inn is likely to close within the next year or so to make way for two Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. hotels planned by Newport Beach-based Tarsadia Hotels. 

It is not just new hotels that are attracting convention business to OC.

The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel redid its meeting space last fall as the second phase of the hotel’s makeover. The changes included new colors, drapes, carpet and artwork to conform to the new California coastal look.

Laguna Cliffs Marriott is slated for another renovation by new owners. The makeover will include all guest rooms, the lobby, meeting rooms, exterior and two pools. 

“We’re going after the high-end family market,” general manager Jim Samuels said.

When it comes to the competition among OC cities for hotel meeting space, Anaheim still has a firm grip on the No. 1 spot in market share, with 445,236 square feet of space in the 14 hotels that made the list. That’s 37% of the total space. Just a few years ago, Anaheim held almost 50% of the space in the largest hotels.

Newport Beach ranks second among OC cities with 132,005 square feet, or 11%.

Dana Point moved ahead of Garden Grove into the No. 3 slot with 113,205 square feet, or 10% of the total. 

Garden Grove now ranks fourth, with 105,039 square feet—at least until the Sheraton opens this year. Once that 8,000 square feet comes on line, Garden Grove will be in a tie with Dana Point for space.

Irvine ranks fifth among OC cities  for meeting space honors, with 98,102 square feet. 
 
 

Sandi Cain is a freelance writer and contributor to the Orange County Business Journal and meetings industry publications. She specializes in hospitality, tourism and travel. Cain holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Kent State University in Ohio, where she majored in social studies. A former high school teacher, she has written for niche-market sports publications in the U.S., England and Australia and formerly worked in both the printing and high-tech industries. A Cleveland, Ohio native, Cain hasbeen a resident of Laguna Beach since the late ’70s. She enjoys travel, gardening, reading and spoiling her three cats.
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Contact:

Sandi Cain
Laguna Beach CA
949-497-2680

sdcain31@cox.net
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Also See: Renovations and One New Hotel Provide Gain in Hotel Meeting Space in Orange County, California in 2006; 50 Largest Hotels Provide 1.17 million square feet in Meeting Space / Sandi Cain / January 2007
California's Orange County 50 Largest Hotels Report a 2% Growth in Meeting Space in 2004, Mainly a Result of Renovations, No New Hotels / Sandi Cain / January 2005
Orange County Hotels Poised for Meetings Growth; Newcomers Help Bolster Total Space; Disneyland Hotel Still No. 1 / Sandi Cain / Jan 2001 
The Meetings and Convention Industry is Booming in Orange County (Anaheim Area) as Competition from Los Angeles and San Diego Intensifies / Sandi Cain / August 2007
Meeting, Exhibit Space Tightening at Anaheim Convention Center; Anaheim Currently Ranks No. 6 in the Nation in Trade Shows. Expansion on the Way? / January 2007
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