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Thursday,  June 13, 2024 12:00 AM 

More to Anaheim than The Mouse

More to Anaheim than The Mouse
Charles Harris, senior vice-president of marketing, Visit Anaheim
Blake Wolfe

Blake Wolfe is an award-winning journalist and editor, who joined PAX after nearly 10 years in Canada’s newspaper industry. In addition to PAX, his work has been featured in publications such as the Metroland Media group of newspapers and the Toronto Sun.

Burgeoning food and craft beer scenes, a revitalized downtown and more developments from Disney are among the reasons to head to Anaheim this year, as the city's tourism board made its first-ever Toronto stop kicking off a cross-Canada roadshow this week.

Twenty-three Anaheim travel partners, representing the destination’s spectrum of hotels, theme parks, restaurants and attractions, greeted the trade during a lunch hour event yesterday (Nov. 14), followed by an evening function welcoming travel agents. The tourist board’s inaugural function in Toronto will be followed by stops in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver this week.

With Disneyland as the city’s best-known tourist attraction, Charles Harris, Visit Anaheim’s senior vice-president of marketing, told PAX that the park’s upcoming Star Wars-themed attraction will continue to draw new visitors.

However, he added that there’s much more to the city than the world-renowned attraction. Twenty-six hotels have opened recently or will open in the near future, Harris said, including four Four-Diamond hotels passed by city council, while developments in Anaheim’s historic downtown have resulted in projects like the Anaheim Packing House, a former citrus warehouse which is now home to several bars and restaurants.

“Visitors come for Disney and more but then they go beyond and explore the city,” he said. “Disney is certainly a very important partner to us, but it’s knowing about Disney and more, the development in and around. If you haven’t been in a few years, you’re in for a surprise.”

Harris said that 12 award-winning craft brewers have also set up shop in recent years, while Anaheim’s renown as a foodie destination has been recognized by several publications.

Moving from ‘the Mouse’ to the MICE market, Harris said that a $190 million expansion will add 200,000 square feet of floor space to the Anaheim Convention Centre, making it the largest convention centre on the West Coast. Harris mused that the project will lift the ACC into the ‘One Million Square Foot Club,’ one of only 11 facilities of that size in the U.S.

Canada continues to be one of Anaheim’s top three international markets (joined by Mexico and Australia/New Zealand), followed closely by China, Harris said; in 2015, the city welcomed 22.5 million visitors, 2.7 million of which were international, he said.

“There’s a lot going on in Anaheim,” Harris said. “Most destinations are not going through a period of growth and transformation as we are, so this is a very exciting time.”