Disneyland Resort is open to Guests from all over, and so is the City of Anaheim. With the pandemic ongoing and back-to-school season in full swing, we wanted to know how Anaheim’s tourism is continuing on the road to recovery.
From what we can tell, it’s safe to say Anaheim tourism is bouncing back Tigger-style.
Inside the Magic recently caught up with Jay Burress, CEO of Visit Anaheim, who shared an update on the city’s tourism and road to recovery in the pandemic era.
After a four-month closure of the entire Southern California Disney Resort, Disneyland Resort — located in Anaheim in Orange County — reopened the Downtown Disney District in July 2020, welcoming back Guests to this small area of the Resort. This began the phased reopening of the California Disney Parks, though the phases took quite some time to roll out.
Months after Downtown Disney reopened, operations expanded to Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure, allowing Guests to shop and dine in a small area of the Park, which operated as an extension of the Downtown Disney District. Gradually, more became available with the A Touch of Disney event in March 2021. And later, on April 30, 2021, Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park resumed operations once again and opened up the gates.
At this point, although the phased reopening continues and not everything (especially not all dining locations) has fully reopened, Guests can still enjoy Disneyland, including the two theme parks and the three onsite hotels — the Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, and Disney’s Grand California Hotel & Spa — which are all open.
Naturally, now that the Happiest Place on Earth is open, the “happiest Guests on Earth,” as you could say, are back in Anaheim.
“It just changes everyone’s outlook and mood when you see families walking down Harbor and Katella with their ears on and you know pushing a stroller heading towards the park,” the Visit Anaheim CEO shared. “It’s just good for the soul to see that back to life.”
With the reopening of the Disneyland Resort — and the reopening of the State of California, as of June 15 — came the reopening of the hotels in Anaheim. In fact, all of the hotels have reopened their doors and welcomed back Guests. Burress expressed that, with the Parks now open, hotel occupancy has skyrocketed, compared to months ago.
“You know, we went from in the teens, sometimes single digit occupancy leading into the summer, and then it started to climb up in the 30, 40 — now we see it in 70% mid-week, up to 80% on the weekends,” he said during the interview. “It shows the demand is there, that pent-up demand to get out to the Park. So that’s been fantastic.”
With all of the Anaheim hotels, the Anaheim convention center, and the Disneyland Resort theme parks open, Burress and the Visit Anaheim team are “cautiously optimistic” about their road to recovery as they navigate tourism during the ongoing pandemic, especially with back-to-school season causing an expected drop in bookings.
But are concerns surrounding the rise in COVID-19 cases — particularly a rise in Delta variant cases — leading to a decrease in vacation bookings for people heading to Anaheim?
At the time of this article’s publication, California has recorded a seven-day average of 12,212 new COVID-19 cases per day, with Florida recording a seven-day average of 29,711 new cases per day, according to data from The New York Times.
Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek recently commented on whether the COVID Delta variant is leading to concerns with theme park attendance at Disneyland Resort in California and Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. And, when it comes to tourism in Anaheim, the Visit Anaheim CEO said that hotels in the area aren’t seeing a noticeable and concerning drop-off in bookings.
“I haven’t heard of anything out of the ordinary [other than] the typical back-to-school drop-off, and I stay in pretty close contact with our hotels,” Burress stated. “They haven’t waved a warning flag yet that that [the drop-off in bookings] is steeper than usual.”
Burress also expressed his confidence in Anaheim bouncing back. When asked to share his predictions on when tourism will be back to pre-pandemic levels, the Visit Anaheim CEO once again shared an optimistic outlook.
“I think that the tourism is going to come back really strong. I think next year we’ll see pre-COVID levels on the tourism levels,” he said.
Overall, as many in the travel industry would agree, one of the top questions travelers have right now is concerning safety. Staying off property at an Anaheim hotel just a short walking distance from Disneyland is something that many travelers choose to do based on affordability and accessibility. If someone chooses to book a trip to an Anaheim hotel and visit the Disneyland Resort theme parks, can they feel sate during their stay?
“I think one of the important things that people are looking for is — Are they going to be safe? Have the hotels [got] the protocols in place for cleanliness? If there are mask requirements, are they following it?” Burress said. “[We want] people to know it is safe. All of our hotels have gone through every inspection out there and are open and running safe.”
The CEO acknowledged the workforce shortage that is occurring throughout the U.S. as a result of the pandemic.
“There is, you know, there will be, for a while, a workforce shortage, and that’s going to take some time to get all of the — that’s nationwide — all the services back up to pre-COVID levels. So I think everyone would understand that and be somewhat patient.”
But overall, Visit Anaheim wants people to know that the city is ready to welcome Guests back to the magic, just like Disneyland is.
“Anaheim has missed our visitors,” Burress shared, “and we’re ready for them to come back and enjoy the magical experience that they have at the Parks.
Are you planning to visit Disneyland Resort in California anytime soon, or are you waiting it out and booking your trip for a later date? Let us know in the comments.