Hotel Online  Special Report

Orange County’s 50 Largest Hotels with Meeting
Rooms Report 3% Jump in Space in 2003
By SANDI CAIN, January 2004

Orange County’s 50 largest hotels with meeting rooms reported a 3% jump in space in the past year, mainly on the strength of new resorts that added a combined 27,464 square feet of space.

That brings the total of indoor meeting space at the county’s largest hotels to 1.13 million square feet, according to this week’s Business Journal list. The list ranks hotels based on the square footage of permanent, indoor meeting space.

Mirroring the trend of recent years, bigger was better for hotels hoping to gain a spot on the list. The amount of space needed to make the cut this year rose to 5,061 square feet from 4,617 a year earlier. A decade ago, 2,400 square feet was enough to qualify.

The new resorts, along with the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa which, opened just in time to be included on last January’s list, have added a total of 79,459 square feet of space along the coast, boosting the combined coastal cities’ share to 25% of the total space among the hotels on the list.

Disneyland Hotel, with 133,359 square feet of meeting space, retained its long-standing grasp on the No. 1 spot on the list, outpacing No. 2 Hilton Anaheim, the largest hotel in Orange County by room count. The Hilton has 94,695 square feet of meeting space.

Disneyland Hotel’s Grand Ballroom will be renovated this summer, but other space at the hotel will remain open during the renovation.

Group business for Disneyland Hotel still is booking short term, though at an increasingly brisk pace, according to Joann Delgin, director of resort sales and services for the Disneyland Resort.

“Meeting planners are very focused on what the benefits are for their attendees or association,” Delgin said. She said that’s one reason the resort launched a Disney Institute educational program on the West Coast (see related story, page 24).

There were no changes in rank among the largest 10 meetings hotels, with the Hyatt Regency Orange County, Anaheim Marriott, Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa, Hilton Costa Mesa, Four Seasons Hotel Newport Beach, Hyatt Regency Irvine, St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa and Crowne Plaza Anaheim Resort rounding out the top 10.

Only six hotels among the 50 on the list made any changes to the amount of their meeting space: No. 15 Westin South Coast Plaza, No. 37 Embassy Suites Hotel Anaheim North and No. 39 Ayres Country Inn & Suites Costa Mesa increased space, while No. 12 Hilton Irvine/Orange County Airport, No. 17 Doubletree Hotel Anaheim/Orange County and No. 38 Doubletree Hotel Santa Ana/Orange County Airport decreased space.

For the most part, the changes were slight and reflect the typical industry propensity for converting suites to meeting space or vice versa as client demands change.

The most significant change was at Ayres Country Inn in Costa Mesa, which boosted its total by 2,000 square feet to 8,579 by using a portion of the suites building for events for the first time.

There are two newcomers on this year’s list: Balboa Bay Club & Resort in Newport Beach, which debuts at No. 27 with 15,464 square feet of space, and Montage Resort & Spa in Laguna Beach, which makes its first appearance at No. 31, with 12,000 square feet.

To date, the bulk of the Balboa Bay Club’s group business has come from the financial services, insurance, medical and pharmaceutical sectors, according to director of public relations Maggie Feldman.

The majority of group business at the Montage has come from medical and financial-related companies, according to corporate director of public relations Marguarite Clark. She said groups book an average of 300 room nights for their stay. Clark said group bookings are up 30% compared to a year ago. The resort opened in February.

The county’s newest meeting space is found in higher-end resorts and hotels, a sector of the hotel market that has outperformed others in the past year.

Coastal Orange County — home to most high-end resorts — had an average daily rate of $135 in 2003, compared to $106 in Anaheim and about $75 in North OC, according to PKF Consulting. OC hotels with an average daily rate greater than $125 per night boasted the highest occupancy in the county for 2003 at 72.64%.

The competition hasn’t hurt existing high-end properties, with even smaller hotels saying they’ve benefited from the attention the new resorts have brought to the county.

“Orange County has had a big challenge with so many rooms being added in recent years,” said Mehdi Eftekari, general manager of No. 7 Four Seasons in Newport Beach.

“But we’ve maintained our market share,” he said. “Corporate business is perking up, and the group market is strong.”

No. 47 Aliso Creek Inn, near Montage in Laguna Beach, has seen an uptick in business since Montage opened.

“It put Laguna Beach on the map again,” said director of sales Andrea Wilde.

Wilde said Aliso Creek Inn, tucked in a canyon across the highway from Aliso Beach, gets a lot of university business and has recently seen restaurant and golf business from Montage guests.

The addition of the new hotels resulted in two hotels dropping off the list: the Fullerton Marriott and the Radisson Maingate in Anaheim.

Fourteen OC cities are represented on the list.

Convention hub Anaheim leads the county in space, with 395,495 square feet and 11 hotels on the list. That represents 35% of the total space reported, down from 36% a year ago as a result of the Radisson Hotel Maingate dropping off the list. In 2000, Anaheim’s market share of space in the largest meetings hotels was 46%.

Newport Beach retained a slight lead over Garden Grove with a 12% share of space at 132,145 square feet in six listed hotels. That’s up from a 10% share last year on the strength of the Balboa Bay Club space.

At the Crowne Plaza in Garden Grove, director of sales Dan Fitzgerald has partnered with a timeshare company, which uses the hotel as a sales center for Disney packages. The hotel also used a heavy Internet presence to boost its business in 2003.

In the airport area, Irvine has a 9% share of space at the largest meetings properties, with 103,525 square feet, while Costa Mesa checks in with an 8% share and 91,130 square feet. Each has five hotels on the list.

The Hilton Costa Mesa’s booking pace is looking good compared to other years, said director of sales and marketing Stephen Beck. “We’re seeing a lot of pharmaceutical business for the first time,” he said.

Anaheim Marriott general manager Doug Watson suggested a healthier economy ultimately will drive more group business to all meeting properties.

“As the economy improves, people need to meet to realign their business,” Watson said.

Forecast data is promising.

PKF Consulting projects overall hotel occupancy will increase 2.9% in 2004, versus a year earlier, reaching 68.4% countywide this year. Room rates are expected to grow 2.1%

The caveat for hotels: the uncertain global climate.

A January report from Pricewaterhouse-Coopers found that hotel occupancy decreased by one to one and a half percentage points during the week after the terrorist alert was raised to orange over the holidays.

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.


Sandi Cain
Laguna Beach CA

Also See Tale of Two Converntions; Las Vegas Versus Anaheim: Trade Groups Take Opposite Tack in Convention Plans / Sandi Cain / January 2004
Meeting Bookers Optimistic 2004 Will Mark Rebound Despite Potential Hurdles; Attendance Boosts at Recent Conventions Have Made Orange County California Hoteliers Hopeful / Sandi Cain / January 2004
Hotels, Theme Parks in Orange County, California Start Aggressive Push for In-State Visitors During Holidays / Sandi Cain / November 2003
An Oranges to Oranges Comparison; Anaheim and Orlando Share Tourism and Meeting Destination Bent, Differ in Some Areas / Sandi Cain / August 2003
New Coastal Resorts Helped Orange County, California Post Gain in Hotel Rooms / Sandi Cain / August 2003
Orange County California Hotel Building Remains Sluggish; Bright Spot: the Burgeoning Resort Market along OC’s Pacific Coast / Sandi Cain / July 2003
Sunstone Hotel Investors LLC and Tarsadia Hotels Expanding by Going After Weaker Hotels in Key Markets / Sandi Cain / June 2003
Orange County's Travel Agencies Continue to Suffer from a Downturn in Travel / Sandi Cain / May 2003
Hoteliers Worry as War, Economy Hit Bookings; A Weak Tourism Industry Threatens to Get Weaker / Sandi Cain / April 2003
Budget Ax Threatens Orange County's Tourism Comeback / Sandi Cain / February 2003
Pacific Islandia California Inc., Owner of the 489-room Sheraton Anaheim Hotel, Files for Bankruptcy Protection; Bankruptcy Over Dispute, Not Results / Sandi Cain / February 2003
Security Detail; High-Profile Meetings Have Police on Special Alert / Sandi Cain / January 2003
New Hotels, Remodelings Spur Growth in Orange County Meeting Space Amid Slow Recovery / Sandi Cain / January 2003
Security Detail; High-Profile Meetings Have Police on Special Alert / Sandi Cain - January 2003
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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