Anaheim wants to expand tourism beyond Disneyland


ANAHEIM, Calif. — Known for 60 years as the home to Disneyland, Anaheim is pushing the idea that there’s more for tourists to do — and spend money on — than ride on Space Mountain and snap a selfie with Mickey Mouse.

Among the new offerings are a food mall that was converted from an abandoned orange packing house and a brewery built within an old Packard car dealership. Five hotels with more than 1,000 rooms are set to open over the next 12 months, in addition to three hotels with 470 rooms that opened last year.

The Anaheim Convention Center recently broke ground on a 200,000-square-foot expansion. A 600-room hotel with a 105,000-square-foot water park is also set to open in adjacent Garden Grove next year.

“It’s great to see it all happening at once,” said Jay Burress, president of the recently renamed Visit Anaheim. The tourism organization changed its name from the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau to put the focus on Anaheim.

With taxes from hotels and Disney theme parks generating about half of the city’s $286 million general fund, Anaheim officials are banking on the prospects that tourism will continue to flourish. The city welcomed 21.7 million visitors last year, up 16 percent from the previous year. The average hotel occupancy rate in the city rose to 79 percent last year from 70 percent in 2010.

Some of Anaheim’s new developments were spurred by a strengthening national economy and the decision by Walt Disney Co. to invest $1 billion to add Cars Land to Disney California Adventure in 2012, according to Anaheim officials.

But the city also has played a role in pushing for some of the developments.

Anaheim bought 7 acres along Anaheim Boulevard about six blocks north of Disneyland and renovated decaying auto repair shops, a used-car lot and a smog check business to pave the way for the Anaheim Brewery and the Packing House food court.

The city also expanded an incentive program that refunds room taxes to developers who build new hotels that are ranked with four stars or higher.

“This is the kind of thing that secures our residents’ and the city’s financial future for the next 20 to 30 years,” said Anaheim City Councilwoman Kris Murray. “We are saying, ‘Let’s keep this investment going.’”

Thanks to room taxes and other tourism-related revenue, the city’s latest budget includes a $10 million surplus to help pay for 10 additional police officers, three additional firefighters, a new fire engine and park improvements.

Carl Winston, director of the L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at San Diego State University, predicted that Disneyland is only going to grow and draw more visitors.

“They have made some very wise moves to invest their tax dollars to build the tourism infrastructure and let Disneyland be the engine that everyone hooks on to,” he said.


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