Orange County Business Journal
Little Change in Meeting Space Last Year, Lots in Focus
Events Digs Make Splash as SF Up 2.1%
By Paul Hughes
Meeting space is what the community of business is, at least for the 52 hotels on this week’s list.
The properties combine for 1.34 million square feet of it, an average of 26,000 apiece, from 140,000 square feet at top-ranked Hilton Anaheim to 6,263 square feet at No. 52, The Ranch at Laguna Beach.
The minimum for inclusion this year was 6,000 square feet.
Ranked hotels’ increased meeting space square footage by over 26,000 last year, or 2.1%.
Orange County added six hotels with 960 rooms, according to Atlas Hospitality Group in Irvine, but most were smaller, select-service or extended-stay properties of fewer than 200 rooms, such as the unranked Hyatt House Irvine, at 149, and AC Hotel Irvine, with 176. Those types of sites have smaller event areas, and travelers here for short-term projects go elsewhere.
It’s rare to see big changes in meeting space.
• Even a second tower at No. 21, The Waterfront Beach Resort—the opening didn’t make our December deadline but is imminent—would’ve added “only” about 19,000 square feet to the total.
• No. 30, Marriott Irvine Spectrum, the lone list newcomer, brought that much itself, plus the list’s biggest boost—18,750 square feet.
• No. 37, Embassy Suites Brea, and No. 42, Kimpton Shorebreak, were each about 1,300 square feet bigger.
• Sheraton Park Hotel is a big mover on the list from No. 29 to No. 20 with a 9,300-square-foot increase.
It’s what the hotels have done with the properties that’s big.
Waterfront Beach Resort’s new tower and related work bring a second big ballroom and an outdoor lawn. Marriott Irvine Spectrum’s rooftop bar, Hive and Honey, opens on Feb. 22.
Down Coast Highway, boutique Kimpton Shorebreak added a junior ballroom and a private dining room—each with a private outdoor space—plus renovated and renamed restaurant Pacific Hideaway opened in May.
Ongoing work at two John Wayne Airport-area stalwarts—No. 12, the once Fairmont and future Renaissance, and No. 24, the Carlton Hotel Newport Beach and soon-to-be Hyatt Regency—will bring more new looks this year.
Down on the Farm
Repackaging and repurposing of meeting space is also taking place.
• No. 18, Fashion Island Hotel, is the former Island Hotel in Newport Beach.
But don’t hotels change their “flags” all the time?
The difference here, of course, is that the high-end hotel and chic retail layout are owned by Irvine Co., along with No. 9, Hotel Irvine, No. 24, the Resort at Pelican Hill, golf courses and marinas. The hotels are gathered under a newish name—the Coastal Collection—and the resort properties division under Ralph Grippo is moving to more consistently package and sell their elements to meetings guests, including rooms, spas, restaurants and golf.
And if guests shop at nearby Fashion Island or the Irvine Spectrum Center, that’s OK, too.
Walking distance from South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa is also seeing some new hotel meetings activity.
• No. 16, Westin South Coast Plaza didn’t change its meeting space, but did change how it uses it: farmers markets instead of food trucks. The hotel reports positive vibes, and more revenue, from guests sampling fresh food.
More New Moves
For more on renovation work, new hotel initiatives and the business both bring to OC, see related articles in this special report.
Bottom line: Even when meeting area doesn’t move the space needle, it can often push branding buttons.
The more things remain the same, the more they change.