Theme Parks Trying to Scare Up Locals
By SANDI CAIN
Orange County Business Journal
Halloween marked the start of an aggressive push by theme parks, tourist attractions and hotels to lure travelers to Southern California for the holidays.
The tourism industry, still looking to regain prosperity not seen since before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, is trying to boost visitors by going after its most promising target of late: locals.
Californians take almost 22 million trips within the state in November and December, according to the California Division of Tourism.
It can be a lucrative time for tourism businesses, with about 9 percent of all U.S. travel occurring in December, according to the Travel Industry Association, a trade group.
Disneyland often is packed on the Thanksgiving weekend and New Year’s Eve, and Disney hotels were full during the holidays, even in 2001. But Disneyland spokesman John McClintock said that booking lead times are too short to predict how holiday season hotel packages will be received.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that the holidays will bring a good response,” he said.
Disneyland has launched its seasonal fireworks show and snow showers on Main Street. At California Adventure, a Santa’s Beach Blast in the main plaza is set to play off contrasting seasons by putting traditional holiday characters into settings from California’s beach culture.
Hotels outside of theme parks have come up with other ways to bring in guests, such as special holiday dinners. Aqua restaurant at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa, for one, plans to offer nightly specials based on the holiday song, “The 12 Days of Christmas,” during the season.
Another hook is shopping.
The Costa Mesa Conference & Visitors Bureau is offering a drive-and-dine package to the regional market that includes a special rate at member hotels and a $40 dining certificate.
“It sells really well,” said Bill Allison, director of sales at the Westin South Coast Plaza hotel across the street from South Coast Plaza.
In Laguna Beach, the Montage Resort & Spa in Laguna Beach will celebrate its first holiday season with a shopping package and a spa package that runs $900 to $2,500, as well as special programs for children and special menus at its restaurants.
Meanwhile, the Hilton Anaheim, Orange County’s largest hotel, is promoting a different kind of Thanksgiving. Called “Best Bud,” the package includes a two-night stay during the Thanksgiving weekend with live performances by the canine celebrity from “Air Bud.”