The latest news for meeting planners from sunny Southern California
2021 and 2022 are game changers for the Anaheim hotel scene in Southern California, with several major projects geared toward the group market. The 618-room Westin Anaheim opened in July of 2021 adjacent to the Anaheim Convention Center with 23 meeting venues and 18 breakout rooms. The 489-room Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort will complete its renovation in 2022 with redesigned meeting and event spaces, including the ballroom, and the guest rooms have also been revamped.
Also new is the Element Anaheim Resort Convention Center, which opened in September of 2021 just steps away from the Disneyland Resort District, Anaheim Convention Center and Anaheim GardenWalk.
For a unique local experience, the Anaheim Packing District now offers a buyout of the 1919 citrus Packing House, home to 29 small businesses offering artisan goods (accommodates 2,711 attendees), or its attached two-acre Farmers Park, with a community garden and stand-alone cafes, can accommodate groups of up to 725. Another new option in a historic building just across the street is the MAKE Building, a transformed marmalade factory that houses Unsung Brewery, Jav’s BBQ, Pali Wine Company and the soon-to-come Stone Groove Stillhouse.
“In Anaheim, it’s easy to feel like the lines are blurred between a vacation and a business trip,” said Jay Burress, president & CEO, Visit Anaheim. “Attendees can seamlessly go from meeting with a view of the Pacific Ocean to enjoying a professional sports game by night. Whether a meeting calls for poolside sunshine at a brewery or luxury rooftop dining with firework views, there’s something for every meeting style.”
The area’s top attraction, Disneyland, can create turnkey themed experiences for groups that stay at one of their thre resorts— Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel or the Disneyland Hotel. “What makes us so unique is that you can have a customized event based on the story you want to tell,” said Marketing Strategy Manager Michael Mendez. “We can augment the meeting’s message with our unique storytelling.” For example, groups can bring the park into the ballroom by theming and event’s decor and F&B, or customize a board meeting with a snack package of treats from the park. Planners can choose a park experience that suits their attendees, whether that means a VIP guide to show them around or a private dessert party and fireworks viewing.
Groups meeting at San Diego’s convention hotels along the waterfront can join right in on the local fun at the new Portside Pier, located alongside the Embarcadero, which features various restaurants and event spaces overlooking the water. Or there’s Downtown’s Gaslamp Quarter, which closes its Fifth Avenue to traffic Wednesday through Sunday. The new Comic-Con Museum in Balboa Park is continuing to expand its interior display space and educational area over the next several months leading to a grand opening of the three-floor museum in July.
On the hotel front, the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina has completed the first phase of an $88 million renovation. This includes upgrading and refurbishing 97,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, which will connect to the overall new design of the Marina Tower, encompassing public spaces and dining as well as guest rooms, and slated for completion in mid-2022.
A $400 million renovation at the Hotel Del Coronado due to be completed this fall will add the new Southpointe Event Center, featuring a 15,000-sq.-ft. ballroom with approximately 10,000 sq. ft. of pre-function and breakout space. The Event Center will open onto a 14,000-sq.-ft. Great Lawn with a view of the historic hotel. There will also be updates to each of the existing guest rooms and to the signature Victorian lobby and front porch.
“Not only does this region have near-perfect weather year-round, but it’s also home to a variety of eye-catching and unique venues that overlook the beaches, the bays and beyond, including Downtown San Diego’s dramatic cityscape,” said Kavin Schieferdecker, chief sales officer for the San Diego Tourism Authority. “With meeting professionals wanting more events and networking in outdoor spaces, it’s the perfect time and place to reimagine your meetings and San Diego is the perfect option.”
Los Angeles is just coming off a successful Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium, but meeting planners can get in on the action by booking private guided tours for groups to go behind the scenes and get into the action with on-field activities.
According to Lodging Economics, Los Angeles has more hotel rooms under construction than any other city in the U.S.
LE’s forecast for new hotel openings anticipates that the Los Angeles market will rank fourth in the nation for hotel openings in 2022 with 19 new hotels and 3,081 rooms.
The city’s luxury landmark, Fairmont Century Plaza, reopened in the fall of 2021, completely re-imagined with 400 spacious guest rooms and 85 suites. With half the number of original guest rooms, they are larger and more luxurious, and every room comes with a marble bathroom and a balcony.
Slated to open in June is a new 305-room Conrad, which will be integrated into a larger complex designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry. It will include a spa, an indoor-outdoor lobby, a 16,000-sq.-ft. rooftop and two José Andrés restaurants.
In downtown L.A., the 147-room Proper has a variety of meeting spaces and a 5,000-sq.-ft. rooftop venue. Among the other hotel additions are two popular boutique brands in Hollywood: the 174-room Thompson Hollywood, which channels laid-back California cool in the heart of Hollywood and has 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, and the 220-room Art Deco-style Godfrey, with a curated art collection and rooftop venue with views of Hollywood, Century City and downtown L.A. Mr. C’s 5,000-sq.-ft., 12th -floor Starlight Ballroom is considered by many to be the crown jewel of event space in Beverly Hills, with 360-degree views that can be enjoyed indoors or on the balcony’s glass-enclosed, LED-lit terrace.
With so much new and so many changes in hotel sales positions due to the pandemic, a helpful—and free—first stop for meeting planners is the city’s convention and visitors bureau. “We make it manageable and easy for you to contact whoever you need to see whether it’s a venue or a hotel,” said Darren Green, senior vice president of sales at the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board. “Planners can come to us and we can reach out to the hotels. We try to be the face and the voice and help our stakeholders as well.”
Certain to be a must-see attraction when it opens in late 2024, Palm Springs’ Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza will celebrate the history, culture and traditions of the Agua Caliente people. The cultural center, located in the heart of the city, will feature an envisioned Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, a new Agua Caliente Spa and Bathhouse and a Gathering Plaza.
“Because our climate is so temperate in Palm Springs, you can have events year-round outdoors,” said Colleen Pace, chief sales & marketing officer at Visit Palm Springs. “All of our hotels have a variety of outdoor spaces, like the Renaissance Esmeralda, which just built an olive grove where you can enjoy dinner or a reception beneath the lights under the olive trees. We also have the Living Desert, which is different than any other zoo you’ve experienced and has a new rhino exhibit with two black rhinos. They have created a venue overlooking the rhinos and giraffes, and groups can learn about the conservation and preservation of the Living Desert and have animal experiences.”
On the hotel front, the Miramonte Resort & Spa has completed a $9 million property-wide transformation includes redesigned and upgraded rooms, a new restaurant and bar concept, new outdoor dining and gathering spaces and modernized meeting rooms, while the Westin Mission Hills Golf resort & Spa completed a $15 million resort-wide renovation with new and expanded outdoor areas for events, as well as updated guest rooms and meeting spaces.
In addition, the Riviera Palm Springs has been rebranded as the Margaritaville Resort Palm Springs, the brand’s first resort on the West Coast. Hyatt Regency Indian Wells has a new waterpark and lazy river and 398 rooms renovated in late 2020, while the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa’s $90 million reinvention touched the lobby and spa and all 884 guest rooms and added a new meeting space.
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