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Hotels Happy: The Visitors Have Returned : Tourism: As memories of Southland disasters fade, business is picking up, especially in Orange County.

August 08, 1995|CHRIS WOODYARD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With Southland disasters now a memory, visitors started returning to the region's hotels this year, especially in Orange County where new Disneyland attractions are luring throngs of tourists, according to figures released Monday.

Hotel occupancy rates for the first six months of 1995 show Los Angeles County with a slight 1.9% increase, while Orange County had a nearly 10% increase overall, with hotels in Anaheim reporting a 22% hike in June alone.

"Most of the people staying in the hotels [now] are leisure travelers, vacation travelers," said Carol Martinez, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Convention & Visitor Bureau, which released the figures.

"It shows L.A. is doing really well, especially from the Japanese market because of the strength of the yen, and from Germany," she said.

The figures, prepared by PKF Consulting in Los Angeles, show that tourism increased in most areas of Los Angeles County, including a rise of 17.7% in Long Beach. Hotel room rates increased 2.7% to match the increasing demand.

But the far more spectacular comeback came in Orange County and the Anaheim area, which was pumped by Disneyland's successful new Indiana Jones ride and Pocahontas stage show.

"We're having a great year," said Bill O'Conner, general manager of the Stovall motel chain in Anaheim. "We haven't had anything negative happen in the past year."

In the last four years, the Southland tourism industry has been buffeted by earthquakes, riots, floods and wildfires, a seemingly endless stream of negative publicity.

But the region's tourist economy now appears to be in solid recovery, industry experts say.

The only three areas of Los Angeles County that registered large downturns in room occupancy for the first half of the year were Downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena and the San Fernando Valley.

But Martinez said that many hotels in those areas had rooms filled last year with disaster victims, relief workers and World Cup soccer fans. This year, they are filled by tourists.

Overall, Los Angeles County's first-half hotel occupancy was 67.2%, up from 65.9% for the first six months of 1994. The average room rate was $84.79.

In Orange County, experts were crediting a lavish marketing campaign by Disneyland for bringing back tourists. The park, in addition to its new attractions, has received worldwide press surrounding its 40th anniversary.

"Disneyland is having a bang-up year," said PKF research associate Melissa Mills, who compiles the monthly hotel statistics. "The new [Indiana Jones] ride is really doing a number for them."

Anaheim, center of Orange County's tourism industry, reported the strongest regional occupancy gain in the county for both June and the first half of the year. In June, occupancy was running at 84.3%, compared to 69.3% for the same time last year. Occupancy in the Disneyland area was 71.2% for the first half.

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