California's Tourism Infrastructure Makes the Golden State Popular With Groups

Anaheim Convention Center 2015

The Anaheim Convention Center (pictured) is in the midst of adding another 200,000 square feet of meeting space

The Golden State may be in the middle of a literal drought, but that's certainly not the case when it comes to meetings, incentives, conventions, and events (MICE). From Northern California's Silicon Valley to Southern California's cities and resort areas, the state continues to attract MICE groups, while investing heavily in future tourism and hospitality developments.

The O.C. Rises
In Orange County, the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau (AOCVCB) is seeing its tourism efforts and investments pay off handsomely. In May, it announced that more than 21 million people visited Anaheim in 2014 -- a 16 percent increase from 2014 that contributed an additional $6.8 billion in revenue to the local economy. Orange County saw a 4 percent increase in visitor numbers in comparison to the previous year.

"Just driving down the streets of Katella Ave. and Harbor Blvd., you can see the commitment the City of Anaheim and the extended tourism community has made in upgrading our offerings," says Jay Burress, president and CEO of the AOCVCB. "New hotels, eateries, attractions -- these are just a few examples of the revitalization of this great city that gives us momentum to grow and welcome more visitors year after year."

The Anaheim Resort District, in particular, has received more than $200 million in investments for hotel developments and renovations, recently adding some 1,500 hotel rooms to the area. In 2014, three new hotels opened: the 178-room Hyatt Place Anaheim Resort, and two SpringHill Suites by Marriott, one with 172 rooms and the other with 120 rooms. In 2015, five hotels are scheduled to open or have recently opened: the 262-room Hyatt House Anaheim Resort; a 274-room Residence Inn; the 215-room Homewood Suites by Hilton - Anaheim Convention Center/Disneyland Main Gate; a 96-room Holiday Inn Express; and the 221-room Courtyard Anaheim Downtown.

In April, the Anaheim Convention Center broke ground on its seventh expansion. The two-year project will add 200,000 square feet of meeting space to the venue, which already holds the title of largest convention center on the West Coast.

Downtown Anaheim is also undergoing a renaissance, thanks to the Anaheim Packing District and Center Street Promenade.

WHERE TO: Anaheim
MEET - Anaheim Convention Center Grand Plaza
If you want to take full advantage of the Southern California sunshine for your next big event, consider the Anaheim Convention Center Grand Plaza. The massive 100,000-square-foot, outdoor, multi-use area is dotted with 151 palm trees, 60 orange trees, and is ideal for alfresco dining, cocktail receptions, and concerts.

STAY - Anaheim Marriott
This 1,033-room hotel, located right by the convention center, recently completed a $15-million renovation that includes upgraded guest rooms, new culinary options, and redesigned Great Room. It has 31 different meeting and event rooms for a total of 100,000 square feet of event space.

PLAY - Anaheim Packing District

Last year, the historic Sunkist citrus packinghouse reopened as the Anaheim Packing House, a 40,000-square-foot food hall with more than 20 food-and-beverage purveyors, live music, and communal seating just two miles from the convention center. The 1919 building is the centerpiece of the Anaheim Packing District, a large retail, restaurant, and event area that's become a big hit with locals, too.

That's So L.A.
Los Angeles is also seeing a major boom in tourism and meetings interest. AEG recently completed its first year of managing the Los Angeles Convention Center and saw a profit increase of $3.3 million -- a first in recent years. The center is also undergoing a major improvement project that will install a new energy-efficient, solar-ready "cool roof" on the South Hall and Concourse Hall; adding new carpet throughout the center; overhauling the parking structures; remodeling and upgrading the 299-seat theater and its A/V capabilities; installing new air handling units; and upgrading air walls, IT infrastructure, lighting systems, and other operating systems.

Downtown Los Angeles is becoming
a hot spot for meetings and tourism
Downtown Los Angeles is becoming a hot spot for meetings and tourism

This year, the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board launched a new "Meet L.A." campaign aimed at introducing -- and reintroducing, in some cases -- planners to the city. Says Darren Green, senior vice president of sales, "Los Angeles is a thriving and vibrant city with eclectic neighborhoods that offer unique L.A. experiences, culture, diversity, and world-class amenities for our meeting attendees."

Two new hotels -- a 218-room Residence Inn and a 174-room Courtyard by Marriott -- recently opened in downtown Los Angeles, just a block away from the convention center. Nearby, the iconic Figueroa Hotel is undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation, as is the Sheraton Los Angeles Downtown Hotel.

The W Los Angeles - West Beverly Hills, formerly known as W Los Angeles - Westwood, recently completed a $25-million renovation of its 297 suites and event spaces. Later this year, the city will welcome The Broad, a new contemporary art museum, as well as a new exhibition space, the Resnick Pavilion, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

Anaheim Convention Center (1.6 million sf);
Los Angeles Convention Center (867,000 sf);
San Jose McEnery Convention Center
(550,000 sf);
Santa Clara Convention Center (302,000 sf)

Varies by county, city 


Pinnacle Awards Go To:
For the full list of Pinnacle Award winners from California, please visit

Silicon Valley Soars
Silicon Valley continues to evolve its hotel and tourism offerings. No longer simply a hub for tech firms, the region is increasingly becoming a destination for meetings and events, too.

San Jose has become a major epicenter for technology and electronics. In keeping with its reputation as the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose offers "Wickedly Fast Free Wi-Fi" from the Mineta San Jose International Airport to the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. The quality of this complimentary Wi-Fi is considered among the best in the nation.

San Jose's Avaya Stadium also doubles
as a great event venue for meeting
and incentive groups
San Jose's Avaya Stadium also doubles as a great event venue for meeting and incentive groups

 In 2013, the convention center completed a $130-million renovation and expansion and since then, other venues have emerged as unique, alternative meeting facilities. Among them is the 18,000-seat Avaya Stadium, which hosts soccer matches and sporting events as well as corporate affairs. Health- and wellness-minded groups may consider ThirdSpace Fitness, a 100-year-old building in downtown that can host events for up to 150. Also in downtown, The GlassHouse has an impressive 12,000 square feet of open space that can accommodate up to 1,200, as well as the largest outdoor patio in the area.

Santa Clara, known as "Silicon Valley Central," will host next year's Super Bowl at its 68,500-seat Levi's Stadium. Although the stadium is home to the San Francisco 49ers, it also acts as a versatile event venue, with 110,000 square feet of event space and 165 luxury suites.

"Levi's Stadium is the hot spot for corporate planners to host off-site nightlife and evening events in Santa Clara," says David Andre, vice president of marketing and communications for the Santa Clara Convention and Visitors Bureau. "From the rooftop terrace to the large concourses, there's a variety of options to choose from to create a great event."

California's Great America theme park also recently added a new 18,000-square-foot Great America Pavilion. It offers a full tailgating experience, complete with food and beverage, for events held at Levi's Stadium, and can also be booked for off-site events.

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This article appears in the June 2015 issue of Successful Meetings.