Hotel Online  Special Report

Total Hotel Room Count and Total Hotel Employment
in 2004 Little Changed from Previous Year
in Orange County, California
By Sandi Cain,  August, 2004

No newcomers debuted among the top 50 hotels in Orange County this year, the first time that’s happened since 1999. 

But employment climbed 3% overall, reflecting at least some optimism. 

Total room count on this week’s Business Journal list of the largest OC hotels was 20,922, up slightly from 20,889 a year earlier. 

The very few changes in ranking on this year’s Business Journal list were the result of renovations and expansions that have become the norm as hotel properties retool to keep pace with the new ones that have debuted since 2000. 

Employment for the 41 hotels that provided figures was up 4%. With estimates, the total number of employees at these 50 hotels rose 3% to 14,405. 

The 16 hotels in Anaheim alone accounted for 5,114 of the jobs. That number includes Business Journal estimates for the three Disney hotels in the city. 

Of the hotels that provided employment figures, 14 had an increase, 10 a decrease and 17 no change. 

The biggest increase in workers was at No. 38 Clarion Hotel Anaheim Resort, which jumped 50% to 150 employees. 

“Business is better this year. Last year it was awful,” said Stephanie Westberg, director of sales. “The foreign independent travel (bookings) are the best they’ve been since 2001.” 

Other big gainers: No. 17 Hyatt Regency Newport Beach grew its staff by 45% to 320 and No. 8 Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa grew 44% to 650 employees. 

“Being a new resort, we’re ramping up to full service,” said Cormac O’Modhrain, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach. “As occupancy improves, we’ve added staff to make sure we maintain our service levels.” 

Two hotels, No. 29 Howard Johnson Hotel and No. 42 Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites — both in Anaheim — cut staff by 11%, the biggest drops on the list. 

Anaheim hotels posted an overall 1% decline in employment. Newport Beach ranks second in market share, with six hotels on the list and 2,312 rooms. That edged out Irvine, which also counts six hotels among the largest 50 hotels, but has fewer rooms, at 2,190. 

Costa Mesa has five hotels and 1,648 rooms among the biggest hotels in OC. 

Though some have described the summer season as soft, reported occupancy at the largest hotels averaged 68%, up from 67% a year earlier. That’s just a shade under the county average of 70% for the first five months of this year, according to Los Angeles-based PKF Consulting, which measures large and small hotels. 

Similarly, hotels on the list have an average starting nightly rate of $159—up $3 from those on last year’s list, and higher than the countywide average of $115 as reported by PKF earlier this year. 

Hoteliers contacted for this story were optimistic. 

“Group business is much better than last year,” said Russ Cox, general manager of No. 10 Coast Anaheim Hotel. “On the leisure side, the business is here but is (booked) very short-term.” 

The trend toward last-minute bookings is one heard repeatedly from area hoteliers, who said it applies equally to regional tourists, foreign visitors and meetings. 

“It’s a very short booking window,” said Cormac O’Modhrain of the Hyatt Regency. “We had only a three-week lead time for one group that booked 400 rooms.” 

Starting rates for the 47 hotels that provided prices range from $79 at six hotels to $560 at No. 41 Montage Resort & Spa in Laguna Beach. Sixteen hotels have published rates starting at less than $100. 

Of the 29 hotels that provided occupancy rates, 14 reported occupancy at or above the countywide average of 70%, while 15 reported lower occupancy. 

No. 26 Radisson Hotel Newport Beach and No. 34 Embassy Suites Irvine reported occupancy of 80% or above. 

“We’re a corporate hotel that caters to the individual business traveler,” said Mari Hnatt, general manager at the Embassy Suites Irvine, which ended last year with 83% occupancy. 

“This year, the business traveler is back on the road,” she said. 

According to the National Business Travel Association, 60% of corporate travel managers said their companies are spending more on travel this year than last. 

Several factors contribute to improved, though uncertain business at area hotels. 

The John Wayne Airport area and other business hotels have seen a definite uptick in business travel that had been missing since the 2001 terrorist attacks. 

“Our corporate business has been up 5% all year,” said Jeff Protzman, general manager of No. 15 Doubletree Hotel Anaheim/Orange County in Orange. 

Leisure business may be short-term, but visitors are coming—both from near and far. 

Coastal resorts are brimming with summer visitors, with some reporting little availability for August nights. 

“The trend is clearly for people to stay closer to home,” said Bill Gunderson, general manager of No. 6 Newport Beach Marriott. 

On the group business side, Coast Anaheim’s Cox said the difference lies with projected attendance. 

“Last year, the business was on the books, but the (projected number of) people didn’t show up,” he said. 

At perennial No. 1 Hilton Anaheim, bookings for the first half of 2005 are pretty good, but the second half still has “holes” to fill, said Edd Karlan, director of sales and marketing. 

The Hilton, along with No. 2 Anaheim Marriott and No. 3 Disneyland Hotel, are the only three OC hotels ranked on Tradeshow Week’s list of 80 largest hotel exhibit facilities in the nation. 

This year’s list may have the same brand names on the outside of the hotels, but half a dozen hotels changed ownership or management companies in the past year, most recently No. 13 Irvine Marriott, now owned by Meristar Hotel Corp. 

Previous Irvine Marriott owner Cigna Hotels also sold No. 22 Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa in Dana Point, to Prudential Real Estate Investors. And the Doubletree Hotel Anaheim was sold to Slohat Hotels LP, though management remains under Hilton Hotels, which owns the Doubletree brand. 

The changes reflect an industry trend to separate ownership and management operations. 

Internal changes were plentiful at area hotels as well. 

Six of the largest 15 hotels either recently completed major makeovers or are slated to begin before year’s end. 

Those complete include Disneyland Hotel, No. 9 Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel and No. 11 Sheraton Anaheim Hotel. The Laguna Cliffs Marriott also completed a renovation last spring that included the addition of 31 rooms and a new spa. 

The Newport Beach Marriott just began a $60 million renovation that will be finished in a couple of years. It’s the most expensive renovation in company history, Gunderson said. When complete, the hotel will have a spa, new restaurant and suites, updated meeting space and a revamped, 8,000-square-foot lobby. 

Business Journal lists often reflect budding industry trends. This has been the case on a couple of fronts for the hotel list. 

One dramatic change for hotels has been the emergence of technology in hotel rooms. 

As recently as 2000, only 21 hotels on the list offered high-speed Internet access to guests. This year, 38 offer wireless Internet access. 

To measure another budding trend, the Business Journal for the first time asked hotels if they charge a resort fee—an increasingly common surcharge at high-end hotels and resorts nationwide. These fees are said to cover resort business improvement district taxes, access to special amenities like spas or sports facilities, among other costs. 

Only nine of OC’s largest hotels reported charging this fee, despite the recent growth of resorts in OC, particularly along the coast. 

Meeting planners say resort fees are not typically a deterrent to booking a hotel if they offer true amenities and are not just extra fees for morning coffee and a newspaper. 

But hotel taxes always have the potential to be an issue. According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, travelers pay an average of $9.51 in lodging taxes based on an average room rate of $83.26 per night. 


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 Tarsadia Boosting Upscale Hotel Holdings With Sutton Place Hotel in Newport Beach Buy / Sandi Cain / August 2004
Anaheim Convention Center Occupancy at Post-renovation High of 81.8%, Future Bookings Solid / Sandi Cain / August 2004
Hotel, Upscale Gym Planned at Summit Complex in Aliso Viejo, California; a 175-room Renaissance ClubSport / Sandi Cain / July 2004
Hotel Design Has Come a Long Way from the Cookie-cutter Days of the 1980s; Designers Aim for Warm, Nurturing Feel Post-Sept. 11 / Sandi Cain / July 2004
Hotel Development in Orange County, California All But Dries Up; Handful of Small Hotels Opens, Little Construction Under Way / Sandi Cain / June 2004
The 6-year-old Orange County (California) Tourism Council May be Victim of Budget Cutbacks / Sandi Cain / June 2004
Long before Walt Disney Bought Land for Disneyland Park in the Early 1950s, Walter Knott Planted the Seeds of the Amusement Industry in Orange County, California / Sandi Cain / May 2004
Cities from Anaheim to Laguna Beach, Rife with New Resorts, Look to Grab Summer Business; Sunnier Outlook Ahead for Summer Travel Season / Sandi Cain / May 2004
Tony Bruno, VP and General Manager of Disneyland Resort Hotels, Maps Out 2004 Changes / Sandi Cain / March 2004
Disney Planning for Big Year in Anaheim Amid Board Drama / Sandi Cain / March 2004
Tourism Industry Rethinks Promotion on Security Issues Data / Sandi Cain / February 2004
Orange County’s 50 Largest Hotels with Meeting Rooms Report 3% Jump in Space in 2003 / Sandi Cain / January 2004
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 

To search Hotel Online data base of News and Trends Go to Hotel.Online Search

Home | Welcome! | Hospitality News | Classifieds | Catalogs & Pricing | Viewpoint Forum | Ideas/Trends
Please contact Hotel.Online with your comments and suggestions.