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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Anaheim Welcomes Back Convention Crowds

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Natural Products Expo West, scheduled to open this week, will mark the Anaheim Convention Center’s largest event since the 2020 shutdown.

For the past two years, the city’s events calendar has slowly been growing back to its capacity, and the Expo is a big sign for the return of the city’s convention business.

Expo West has not visited OC since 2019 and, after a recent run in Philadelphia, comes bringing the city its first in-person major convention in over two years.

The Expo gathers the natural and organic industry together for educational sessions involving distributors, food service professionals, manufacturers and more as guests and exhibitors. The organization has held the Expo in Anaheim for over 40 years.

Expectations

Running from March 8-12, the Expo—said to be the second-largest trade show in the city—has a projected economic impact of $145 million for the city of Anaheim, according to destination marketing firm Visit Anaheim. Expo West brings in an estimated $2.3 million in tourism occupancy tax revenue.

About 60,000 attendees are anticipated, and Expo West is expected to bring nearly 45,000 room nights to local hotels supporting more than 23,000 local jobs, according to Visit Anaheim’s outlook.

The event’s organizer, New Hope Markets, said it is expecting a strong turnout based on registration increases and a rise in retailer commitments. Pre-pandemic, the show brought in about 3,600 exhibitors.

The event also makes use of two of the largest hotels in Orange County: Hilton Anaheim and Anaheim Marriott. They hold about 279,000 square feet of meeting space and 2,604 bookable rooms in total for OC visitors.

With the recent announcement of California lifting its mask mandate for indoor spaces, Expo West will go forward keeping a mask requirement for event participants while visiting the convention center and neighboring hotels.

Adhering to state guidelines for large events, attendees will also need either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within the prior 24 hours.

The convention center now utilizes 100% outside air in accordance with industry and federal recommendations for publicly occupied spaces and has 63 locations that have entry access to reduce crowded areas, among other precautions.

“The execution of a safe and responsible event will undoubtedly give other Convention Center clients the added confidence to move forward with the return of their in-person events,” said Jay Burress, Visit Anaheim’s president and CEO.

Reschedule 

The NAMM Show in January 2020 was the convention’s last big pre-pandemic event, reportedly bringing over 115,000 guests and music industry professionals to the area; it was the organization’s largest show in history. The NAMM Show will be returning to the convention center this June after having to reschedule its prior January 2022 dates due to the rise of omicron cases.

Pre-pandemic, other large local events included Comic-Con International’s WonderCon with 45,000 attendees and the Walt Disney Company’s D23 Expo hosting 70,000 attendees.

Another recurring event often held at the convention center is Blizzard Entertainment’s BlizzCon. Initially planning for a virtual presentation like the prior year, the company in October opted to cancel this year’s show altogether. The BlizzCon team wants to reimagine the event’s future according to an October statement. The show had previously seen 35,000 attendees during its run in 

November 2019.

After two years of postponements, cancellations and loosening restrictions, consumers and operators alike are back and ready to spend both time and money in returning businesses and events.

Travel-related spending from domestic visitors in California is expected to recover to 96% of 2019 levels this year, while business-related travel could recover close to 79%, according to Visit California forecasts.

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