Hotel Online Special Report

New Hotels, Remodelings Spur Growth in
Orange County Meeting Space
Amid Slow Recovery 
By Sandi Cain 
Staff Reporter Orange County Business Journal
January 2003

Meeting space at Orange County’s largest hotels jumped 7% in the past year, thanks mainly to the opening of two hotels that added a combined 62,000 square feet of space. 

That brings the total meeting space at the county’s largest hotels to 1.1 million square feet, according to this week’s Business Journal list. The list ranks the 50 biggest hotels in OC based on the square footage of permanent, indoor meeting space. 

Bigger was better for hotels hoping to gain a spot on the list. The amount of space needed to make the cut rose to 4,617 from 4,200 square feet a year earlier, a 9% jump and almost double the 2,400 square feet that qualified in 1995. 

All but about 10,000 square feet of the increase can be attributed to Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach, which opened Sunday and debuts at No. 5, and Garden Grove’s Marriott Suites, which opened in mid-November and earned the No. 33 spot. 

Together, the newcomers accounted for about 91% of the increase and about 6% of the list’s total space. 

The increase in meeting space adds more flexibility to the OC market even as it faces a long and slow recovery from pre-Sept. 11 terrorist attack levels. 

Overall hotel occupancy, at 59% last year, was at its lowest point in 31 years, according to Bjorn Hanson, a global hospitality industry partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in New York. 

“Hotel demand is not recovering with the economy,” said Hanson, in a speech to a recent convention of meeting planners in Anaheim. 

Given that, questions remain about whether hoteliers will succeed in making all that space pay off. 

And with trade show and convention attendance still below 2000 levels, hoteliers are scrambling to get a share of the group business. 

“You have to play every trump card you can,” given today’s stiff competition, said Ed Griffin, president of Dallas-based Meeting Planners International. 

Disneyland Resort hired four sales managers in the past six months, said Joann Delgin, director of resort park event sales and services. It also added national sales offices in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. 

But it’s the short lead time for group bookings that hoteliers repeatedly say hampers planning. 

“The group booking pace is improving, but hard to forecast because of the short-term nature,” Delgin said. “But it’s definitely better than last year.” 

At No. 2 Hilton Anaheim, the Southland’s largest hotel with 1,572 rooms, the sales force is putting more emphasis on the leisure market to bolster occupancy, said Edd Karlan, director of sales and marketing. 

“For spring, we will be aggressive in advertising in our feeder markets of Arizona and Las Vegas,” he said. 

The Hilton also added a sales manager in Washington, D.C. 

One way for hotels to fill the space is by turning to the local market. 

Companies seeking space for luncheons, dinners or seminars found the search challenging before the Sept. 11 attacks, but current conditions make hoteliers more receptive to one-day events. For some, that includes the lucrative wedding business. 

“Day-use catering is definitely on the rise,” said Jeff Protzman, general manager of No. 21 Doubletree Hotel Anaheim/OC in Orange. 

The Doubletree, once a convention hotel hub, has seen a downturn as more hotels opened near the Anaheim Convention Center. Protzman said his staff now promotes its proximity to The Block at Orange and the advantage of being away from congested Harbor Boulevard to get group business. 

At No. 14 Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, general manager John Dravinski said corporate day events are “a little easier” to schedule than in previous years. 

“Flexibility (on date) is the key,” he said. 

The Disneyland Hotel’s 136,000 square feet of meeting space secured its grasp on the list’s No. 1 slot, outpacing Hilton Anaheim, a spot behind. The Hilton reported 94,695 square feet of meeting space. 

No. 3 Hyatt Regency Orange County and No. 4 Anaheim Marriott also retained their rankings. Newcomer Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa debuted at No. 5 with 52,000 square feet of space, bumping other hotels down a notch. 

The other newcomer on this year’s list is No. 33 Anaheim Marriott Suites in Garden Grove, whose opening was delayed a year after fallout from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. 

Hyatt Regency Orange County
  11999 Harbor Blvd.
  Garden Grove, California
The hotel caters to the group market rather than the individual business traveler who is more frequently a customer in the Marriott Suites chain, according to Kent Galante, director of sales and marketing. The hotel’s proximity to Disneyland should help on the leisure side. 

Rounding out the top 10 are No. 6 Hilton Costa Mesa, No. 7 Four Seasons Hotel Newport Beach, No. 8 Hyatt Regency Irvine, No. 9 St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa and No. 10 Crowne Plaza Resort Anaheim/OC. 

The 10 largest hotels on the list account for 52% of meeting space at the 50 hotels. 

Anaheim—the county’s convention hub—retained its dominance of the meeting market with 12 hotels on the list, but its market share dipped to 36% from 39% a year ago. That share was 10 percentage points below its 2000 level, as big hotels have been built in the county’s other cities. 

Neighbor city Garden Grove now has four hotels on the list, accounting for 10% of meeting space. All four are within a mile of the convention center. 

About 8,000 hotel rooms and almost 500,000 square feet of meeting space are within walking distance of the Convention Center—a key selling point in today’s market, according to meeting planners. 

Together, Anaheim and Garden Grove accounted for 46% of the county’s total meeting space. 

With 115,281 square feet, Newport Beach had the second most space after Anaheim. The coastal city had 10% of the total. When the Balboa Bay Club’s public hotel opens in May, it will add about 9,000 square feet to the mix. 

The rest of coastal Orange County for years lagged behind these meeting hubs, but not anymore (see related story, page 19). 

The Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach and Montage Resort and Spa in Laguna Beach will add a combined 74,000 square feet of space along the coast between Huntington Beach and Dana Point. 

Costa Mesa and Irvine each have five hotels on the list this year. But for Irvine, that’s one fewer than last year. 

Last year’s No. 50 Doubletree Irvine Spectrum dropped off the list because it didn’t make the minimum cutoff. 

And former No. 49 Chase Suite in Fullerton fell off the list for the same reason, leaving Fullerton with three hotels among the county’s largest. 

Given an uncertain market, only three existing hotels expanded their meeting space in the past year. 

The biggest jump was at No. 12 Hilton Irvine/OC Airport, which enclosed its 7,000-square-foot patio terrace, boosting its indoor total 41% to 25,000 square feet. 

And the Hilton Costa Mesa added 2,000 square feet during a remodel while No. 34 Surf & Sand Resort in Laguna Beach reconfigured its space to make an additional 500 square feet available. 

Three hotels posted declines in meeting space. 

No. 25 Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort in Huntington Beach dropped 15% of its space to 18,350 square feet. Director of sales Tim McGill said the hotel converted lightly used meeting suites into deluxe guest rooms. 

The gamble has worked, he said. 

“They’re more popular as guest rooms,” he said. “It has resulted in more revenue for us.” 

No. 43 Quality Hotel Maingate in Anaheim shed 7% of its space to 6,368 square feet and No. 45 Jolly Roger Inn/Portofino Inn & Suites cut 6% of its meeting space to 5,826 square feet. 
New Look: Hotels Pursue Makeovers 
Sluggish occupancy often means a surge of renovations, and Orange County’s hotels were no exception. Here’s a sampling of recent changes at some of OC’s largest hotels. 

• No. 1 Disneyland Hotel will renovate its meeting space in 2004. 

• The Hilton Anaheim converted its Hasting’s Restaurant to an upscale billiards parlor that can double as a private dining room for small groups. There’s a new menu and TV plasma screens, creating a sports pub feel. The hotel plans to add wireless technology that would allow sessions from the convention center or other meeting space to be broadcast on the screens for small, private gatherings. 

• The Anaheim Marriott completed the last phase of a $27 million remodel in September with upgrades to its meetings area that included art, carpeting, sound walls, furnishings and a fiber optic network. 

• Hilton Costa Mesa is nearing completion of a $14 million renovation to its meeting space. Guest room upgrades are done. A new restaurant, Bristol Palms, will open in February, featuring fusion cuisine, a wine bar and coffee station. 

• The Hyatt Regency Irvine (photo above) completed the first phase of a $14 million renovation in December that included guestrooms, suites and a fitness center. The hotel’s meeting space, lobby, lounge and other public areas will be finished by the end of January. 

• St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa added a Kid’s Club and toddler pool last summer. 

• Hilton Irvine enclosed its 7,000-square-foot patio terrace with sliding glass doors to add meeting space flexibility. 

• The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel plans to start a $30 million renovation by year’s end. 

• The Hyatt Newporter was recently bought by San Clemente-based Sunstone Hotel Investors Inc., which says it will renovate the property. 

• In Orange, the Doubletree Hotel Anaheim/Orange County will complete a soft goods upgrade in all guest rooms by month’s end. 

• Laguna Cliffs Marriott in Dana Point broke ground on a 14,000-square-foot spa in December. The spa is set for a summer opening. Last summer, the resort built a high-tech meeting center with tiered amphitheater seating, a multimedia computer-controlled presentation system and high-speed Internet access. 

• The Hilton Waterfront in Huntington Beach converted eight meeting suites to deluxe guest rooms. 

• The Surf & Sand Resort in Laguna Beach reconfigured its ballroom to allow for more space. It also is renovating the swimming pool, guest rooms and front entrance. 

Sandi Cain is copy editor and a staff reporter covering hospitality,tourism, travel and sports. 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.


Sandi Cain 
Staff Reporter 
Orange County Business Journal

Also See Tarsadia Hotels Building Residence Inns in Garden Grove, San Diego, Buys the 201-room Crowne Plaza in Las Vegas / Sandi Cain / Dec 2002
Bucking Convention - Anaheim Center Expansion Seems to Pay Off as Other Cities Struggle / Sandi Cain / Nov 2002
Ayres Breaks Ground on L.A. Hotel, Expanding Two Others / Sandi Cain / Oct 2002
Orange County California's Hotels, Convention Center Upbeat Despite New Competition and Weak Economy / Sandi Cain / Aug 2002
Ritz, Surf & Sand, Vie With Beach Resort Newcomers Along California's Orange County Coast; Almost 1,000 rooms Set to be Added / Sandi Cain / Aug 2002
Orange County California's Hotels, Convention Center Upbeat Despite New Competition and Weak Economy / Sandi Cain / Aug 2002
Montage Founder, Alan J. Fuerstman Sees Big Things for Laguna Colony Luxury Hotel, Acquired from Marriott International for $190 million / Sandi Cain / July 2002
Orange County’s $6 billion Annual Tourism Industry Shaking off the Downturn / Sandi Cain / May 2002
The Orange Riviera - New Luxury Hotels and Renovation Projects Transforming OC’s Coast / Sandi Cain / May 2001 
Orange County Hoteliers Hope for a Solid Summer Season to Regain Momentum / May 2002 / Sandi Cain
Hotel Brokers: From Sales to Consultants / Sandi Cain / Jan 2002 
Tourism Officials Focus on Security of Events and Sites as Key to Attracting Visitors / Sandi Cain / Jan 2002 
Orange County Travel Agencies Bear Brunt Last Week, Waiting For Fallout / Sandi Cain / Sept 2001 
St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa Opening Adds to Competition in South Orange County California / Sandi Cain / Aug 2001 
The Orange Riviera - New Luxury Hotels and Renovation Projects Transforming OC’s Coast / Sandi Cain / May 2001 
Ayres Hotel Group Expands, Rebrands / Sandi Cain / March 2001
Orange County’s Hoteliers Relieved as Anaheim Convention Center Expansion Boosted Occupancy and Rates During Past Year / Sandi Cain / May 2001
Indomitable Disney / Bad News Doesn’t Tarnish the Mouse; Slowing Economy Another Matter /  / Feb 2001 
Orange County Hotels Poised for Meetings Growth; Newcomers Help Bolster Total Space; Disneyland Hotel Still No. 1 / Sandi Cain / Jan 2001 

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