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 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
By Sandi Cain, Orange County Business Journal Staff
January 2007

Disneyland Hotel No. 1 with 136,000 

January 2007 - A flurry of renovations and one new hotel were behind the gain in hotel meeting space in Orange County in the past year.

The county’s 50 largest hotels reported a 3% increase in meeting space to 1.17 million square feet, according to this week’s Business Journal list, which ranks hotels by the square footage of their permanent, indoor meeting space.

That reversed a 1% drop last year, which was attributed to renovations that put some space out of use.

Only one new hotel opened in the past year—No. 42 Doubletree Guest Suites Anaheim Resort/Convention Center.

Half the hotels on the list completed renovations in 2006, ranging from less than $5 million to a $60 makeover of No. 11 Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa.

Convention attendance in OC was up slightly in 2006 and is expected to increase significantly this year. Even a small increase in meeting space will be put to good use by planners.

“There’s a good, healthy large group market right now,” said Robert Donahue, director of sales for the three Disneyland Resort hotels.

All three Disney hotels are seeing growth in the group market, Donahue said. One boon for the Disney hotels is the newly launched West Coast Disney Institute, a series of three-day educational programs that take place at the hotels.

Disneyland Hotel held the No. 1 spot again with 136,000 square feet of space. The hotel and its sister properties No. 18 Disney’s Paradise Pier and No. 22 Disney’s Grand Californian benefited from the theme park’s 50th anniversary celebration that lasted through September.

Disneyland Hotel also saw some renovations. It turned one of its suites into a themed pirates room suitable for breakfasts or small receptions. “The Pirates Suite is in high demand with meeting planners,” Donahue said.

The Hilton Anaheim, the county’s largest hotel by number of guest rooms, also held its No. 2 ranking with 95,887 square feet of meeting space. The hotel is set to see a remodel this spring. It’s already turned former nightclub Pulse into additional meeting space.

“We’re ahead of our 2006 booking pace,” said Edd Karlan, director of sales and marketing at the Hilton. “We’re confident 2007 will be a good year.”

Several hotels moved up on the list after completing renovations.

No. 3 Anaheim Marriott is set to officially debut its new 27,000-square-foot ballroom in April. That brings the hotel’s total space to 82,580 square feet, moving it up from No. 4.

Anticipation of the new space has generated additional business, according to resident manager Steve Montgomery. “Planners enjoy having all their meeting space on one floor,” Montgomery said. An IBM Corp. group will be the first to use the space, he said.

Moving up the list to No. 11 from No. 24 was the Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort — formerly the Coast Anaheim Hotel. The hotel reopened last year after a $56 million remodel that added 7,300 square feet of meeting space, a 39% increase.

Fairmont Hotel in Newport Beach — the former Sutton Place Hotel — jumped to No. 15 from No. 25, also on the strength of a major makeover that increased its space by 26% to 22,000 square feet.

The Surf & Sand in Laguna Beach increased its space 25% to 10,160 square feet by expanding the Pelican Room. The expansion helped it move up a spot to No. 36.

A few hotels dropped in rank, including No. 22 Hilton Irvine/Orange County Airport, No. 25 Crowne Plaza Resort Anaheim, No. 35 Embassy Suites Hotel Anaheim South and No. 46 Ayres Hotel & Suites Costa Mesa.

Most hoteliers contacted for this story reported strong group business bookings for 2007.

“Our group business is phenomenal,” said Brad Logsdon, director of sales at No. 6 Hilton Orange County/Costa Mesa.

Logsdon said group business was up 18% in 2006 and the hotel expects stronger numbers this year. Higher name recognition from East Coast planners is one factor, he said. “Planners are starting to call it The O.C.,” Logsdon said.

For hotels like Hilton Costa Mesa and No. 10 Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, in-house group business is the norm. Since the Ritz-Carlton completed its remodel in 2005, its group business has picked up, said director of sales Scott Evans.

“2000 was our best year ever and 2007 is likely to top that,” he said.

This year, 39 hotels report having wireless Internet access in meeting rooms, public spaces or both. All 50 hotels have Internet access in guest rooms for the first time. And 32 hotels now have onsite video conferencing.

The remodel frenzy isn’t over.

Hilton Anaheim plans to start a remodel this spring; No. 4 Hyatt Regency Orange County will redo all first-floor meeting space this year and north tower guest rooms next year.

No. 14 Westin South Coast Plaza, which said group business is up about 10% this year, is set to add a 4,500-square-foot pavilion and wedding gazebo this year and begin a room remodel by year’s end.

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: 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’s 50 Largest Hotels with Meeting Rooms Report 3% Jump in Space in 2003 / Sandi Cain / January 2004


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