A lot has changed in the four years since construction began on the Westin Anaheim Resort, a $250 million luxury hotel on Katella Avenue, next to the Anaheim Convention Center and across the street from Disneyland.
Disneyland Resort’s two new major attractions: Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and the Avengers Campus, had yet to open when the project broke ground, for starters.
In addition, there was not yet a hint of the pandemic that would rattle the tourism industry and bring occupancy levels to historic lows.
Now, the hotel’s June 2 opening—around the unveiling of the Marvel-themed campus at California Adventure—came a few weeks before the state’s full reopening, with the county enjoying its first return to normalcy in nearly 15 months.
The hotel—on the site of the former Anabella Hotel, brings several other industry milestones.
With 618 guest rooms, it’s the largest hotel to open in the state in the past year, and ranks No. 6 among Orange County’s largest hotels by room count, according to this week’s Business Journal list (see page 27).
The hotel is also the city’s second four-diamond hotel to open not on Disney grounds, following the opening of the 466-room JW Marriott (No. 17 on the list) that opened last August.
The Westin was developed by Anaheim-based Wincome USA, which has owned the site for well over a decade.
It is led by Carmine Iommazzo, a hospitality vet from Australia whose résumé counts management positions at several Hawaiian resorts. He came on as general manager in 2017.
“The hotel was already under construction when the pandemic hit, so while the overall plans for the property weren’t changed, everything else did,” Iommazzo said.
The hotel’s opening, like many others in the area, was delayed several times but ultimately came after Disneyland’s long-awaited reopening at the end of April.
The resort’s two theme parks are a main selling point for customers of the new Westin Anaheim Resort, which aims to cater to a more high-end traveler in the city with daily room rates in the high $200s.
That can be considered a bargain, given that the two hotels on Disney grounds each have daily rates in excess of $400; Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, No. 4 among OC’s largest hotels, counts rates approaching $600.
“There’s nothing like this hotel currently in the Anaheim market,” Iommazzo said. “Guests can come here and won’t have to leave unless they’re going to Disneyland or a meeting at the convention center.”
The resort’s design and architectural team includes Cobico, HED and Michael Hong Architects; the latter was part of the design team for the Bellagio in Las Vegas.
The Anaheim Resort has 121 suites, including a 2,000-square-foot presidential suite; a signature Westin Fitness Studio; 47,542 square feet of indoor/outdoor meetings and event space; an outdoor swimming pool and whirlpool with five private cabanas and a pool bar; and seven restaurants and bars.
Meeting space includes a nod to the former hotel at the site, with a 16,120-square-foot Anabella Ballroom.
Eateries at the resort include signature restaurant Tangerine Room, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar and Puesto, a popular “Mexican artisan kitchen” based in San Diego that counts three other OC locations.
In what will no doubt be a post-COVID-19 selling point, the resort will have an open-air rooftop bar, called RISE Rooftop Lounge, that will have views of Disneyland Resort and the park’s nightly fireworks.
It will be the largest rooftop bar in the city when it opens this summer, according to the resort.
A more unique amenity at the resort is a reverse osmosis water filtration system throughout the property.
It’s not a result of a pandemic-related renewed emphasis on wellness, officials note.
“The water in Anaheim is quite hard, so this system takes the water, filters and purifies it, and makes it softer to provide a better experience for drinking and showering,” Iommazzo said.
Staffing up the Westin is the biggest headwind for the newly opened hotel.
“Hiring is one of our biggest challenges with a lack of candidates in the market following the pandemic,” said Iommazzo, noting the downturn caused many hotels, including the new Westin, to furlough employees.
The Westin originally planned on opening last October, then in February, choosing to wait until June due to a lack of travelers in the market.
“At one point, it was just four or five of us here taking care of the building,” Iommazzo said. “I would personally inspect each room to make sure everything was moving forward. My wife even came on some Saturdays just so she could help.”
Iommazzo has more help now, with about 200 employees.
That’s still less than half of what is needed to operate the resort at full occupancy; a silver lining for area hotels that have time to get back on their feet and get their operations humming before demand is expected to come back in full swing this summer.
“This project has been my biggest joy and my biggest burden,” jokes Iommazzo, whose company has other development plans in the city.
Wincome also has plans to redevelop the Anaheim Hotel at 1700 S. Harbor into a 580-room luxury hotel that could add another four-diamond resort to the area.
The company previously told the Business Journal that it has a development extension through 2025, giving the company time to gauge local demand following the pandemic, and to see how new luxury hotels are performing.
For now, Wincome is happy to have one new product to unveil.
“It’s been amazing to be a part of, and I can’t wait for everyone to come and see for themselves how majestic this property is,” Iommazzo said.