According to Visit Anaheim, a record setting 24.2 million people visited Anaheim during 2017. Visitation has jumped 31% since 2012, when Cars Land opened at Disney California Adventure. Thanks to the Disneyland Resort and Anaheim Convention Center, the city of Anaheim has a powerhouse duo of attractions that bring in millions of guests. However, the city has struggled to create other attractions to keep those guests in the city. Can they ever leverage these profitable assets and make the Anaheim Resort District a luxury destination?
The Perfect Location
Walt Disney chose Disneyland’s location to be situated in the heart of Southern California. Los Angeles to the north and San Diego to the south, along with the beach close by to the west and the mountains to the east. Anaheim is the perfect home base for a Southern California adventure. The city also sits in affluent Orange County, with plenty of locals willing to spend for the right experience. Anaheim is perfectly situated to be a luxury destination.
The Changing Face of Theme Parks and Conventions
Until recently, theme parks and conventions were considered budget activities. As a result, the area surrounding the Disneyland Resort and the convention center were largely strips malls and budget hotels.
That is no longer the case. Disney prices have skyrocketed in the last decade. Plus, conventions have become mainstream, with attendance booming. As venue prices have jumped, so have the tastes of their guests. While there is a segment of theme park guests looking to save a few bucks on lodging and food to make up for the increased cost of admission, more and more guests are expecting higher-end accommodations and food choices to go along with their pricier theme park or convention experience.
Anaheim Resort hotel chains have responded by building new hotels to replace the budget ones that used to rule the resort district. Disney is also expected to break ground on their own new luxury resort soon. With so many hotels in an area that is becoming increasingly upscale, Anaheim has a great opportunity to make the Anaheim Resort a true luxury destination.
Lack of Choice Outside of Disney
Anaheim has struggled to make the city a destination outside of Disney and conventions. GardenWalk is only the latest example of failed projects that have yet to keep visitors in the city and spending. Anaheim is a commuter destination; visitors come in and go to Disneyland or a convention and leave. Anaheim sees little benefit outside of the hotel bed tax, Disney’s contribution, and those who grab a quick bite to eat to or from their destination.
Anaheim’s other high-profile attractions are sports teams that are also notoriously commuter destinations. Visitors drive in to an Angels baseball game or Ducks Hockey game and then drive out. Angel Stadium and the Honda Center sit largely absent of events outside of hosting their teams’ games.
What Can Be Done
The Anaheim Resort District needs to take a queue from other tourist destinations around the world. Downtown revitalization projects have rejuvenated many cities and could do wonders in Anaheim as well. Developing a lively and tourist-friendly district of restaurants and attractions can keep tourists from leaving the city once they have had their fill of Disney or conventions.
Other cities looking for tourist dollars envy the position Anaheim is in. The city has largely squandered their position, as they seem intent on resting on their laurels and lean on Disney as well as convention center traffic to keep them afloat. Hopefully the city will find the vision to turn the Anaheim Resort District into a true tourist destination outside of Disneyland.