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Loooking at Orange County's Past Year Sheds Light on '86 : Tourism

December 29, 1985|BRUCE HOROVITZ

In 1985, Disneyland hosted a yearlong 30th birthday bash, and virtually all the county's tourist spots celebrated.

It was a post-Olympic year, and tens of thousands of crowd-shy visitors who stayed away in 1984 visited the area. An estimated 30 million tourists spent more than $10 billion here this year, up considerably from 1984.

The tourism surge proved a boon to Orange County hotels. Even with the opening of 2,000 additional hotels rooms in 1985--bringing the county's total to nearly 22,000--hotel occupancy was still up slightly compared to 1984, according to the Anaheim Area Visitor & Convention Bureau. However, industry executives predict that occupancy could flatten or dip in 1986 when another 750 hotel rooms are scheduled to open.

However, amusement industry analysts expect the upward spiral to continue in 1986.

Most credit Disneyland for igniting the spark to this year's tourism resurgence. Disneyland celebrated its birthday by giving away nearly $12 million in gifts, including a new car every day. As a result, the Magic Kingdom is very close to attracting a record 12 million guests this year.

Disney officials say the gift giving has been so successful that the park will continue the giveaway into 1986. The park also intends to add a new flight simulator ride next year, designed by George Lucas, director of "Star Wars." It also will add a pulsating Michael Jackson video show, "Captain Eo."

Disneyland also may reintroduce the park's famed ticket books in 1987, officials say. Industry analysts say such a move could help improve park profits.

Knott's Berry Farm also saw an attendance jump this year. The park spent $2 million to rejuvenate its Ghost Town into an updated Boom Town. Knott's officials expect to spend about that same amount in 1986 to revamp another themed area of the park.

But another area park, Lion Country, suffered a severe attendance drop again this year. And plans for a giant water park on the premises never materialized. The animal theme park has generally failed to compete with area amusement attractions. As a result, industry consultants predict that Lion Country could be closed or sold within the next year or two.

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