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Visit Anaheim: Crowds Return, But Wary of Future

Near Pre-Pandemic Levels; New Recession Concerns

Anaheim’s vital tourism industry has largely returned to pre-pandemic levels in terms of visitor attendance, hotel usage and events. However, there are concerns that a new recession could put the city in a bind again, says Visit Anaheim, the area’s destination marketing organization, or DMO.

Visit Anaheim held a destination forecast event for the tourism and hospitality community in Orange County on Aug. 17 to update local businesses on industry trends and expectations.

The event included insights from Visit California, Destination Analysts, Associated Luxury Hotels International, and the DMO’s chief executive, Jay Burress.

The forecast revealed growing concerns for upcoming travel among consumers but with the promise of recovery by the beginning of 2023 despite industry issues.

Around 300 members from local hotels, attractions and neighboring DMOs attended what is Visit Anaheim’s largest event of the year.

Project timelines such as the Anaheim LAX Link transportation project were updated and teased to be launching soon. Anaheim Transportation Network’s Free Rides Around the Neighborhood program, known as FRAN, was given plaudits for being the city’s first all-electric fleet of transport vehicles.

Another ride service named EVE would soon be offering transportation to and from John  Wayne Airport under the Anaheim Regional Transportation umbrella as well, the group announced.

Anaheim’s Momentum

One trend that proved true during tourism’s return was the leisure sector’s lead in recovery with corporate travel crawling behind.

In 2020, occupancy dropped to as low as 18%. As of this June, hotel occupancy was 82% with average daily rate (ADR) outperforming those numbers from three years ago.

A big part of Anaheim’s visitor activity comes from its conventions business. With 24.2 million visitors total, $1.8 billion was spent by business and convention visitors in 2019.

This year, bookings are up 11%. Burress noted that numbers have been matching the pre-pandemic year for the past two months.

There are 175 conventions and meetings on Anaheim’s schedule for 2022. The Anaheim Convention Center has 21 groups left for the year, which the DMO expects will bring $222 million in economic impact to the local community. Major events include the upcoming D23 Expo in the second weekend of September which estimates attendance of 40,000.

The city is currently at 99.6% of 2019 levels in terms of visitors overall, according to Burress.

For California as a whole, spending will return to 2019 levels by 2023, according to a Tourism Economics forecast from May. Statewide tourism related spending totaled $100.2 billion for 2021 which was only 30% behind prior levels, it said.

Traveler Concerns

Other issues that were addressed during the event include the labor shortage in the hospitality workforce with consumers taking note of the declines in service, according to surveys from Destination Analysts.

Concerns over future spending and travel costs amidst inflation were notable, while traveler caution due to the ongoing pandemic was trending downward in the U.S. Safety and expenses were top concerns found among international visitors.

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