12 ORANGE COUNTY BUSINESS JOURNAL www.ocbj.com DECEMBER 18, 2017
By PAUL HUGHES
What have you done for me lately?
Hospitality in recent years has seen its
share of hype and change, from a hot hotel
market to planned fantasies and tomorrows
at Orange County tourist meccas.
2018 holds the latest takes on those, from
the flip side of hotel building and buying to
hints of what’s coming at Disneyland Resort. Hype will become realities—if at times
virtual—as promised lands from the Star
Wars-themed one at Disney to the latest iterations of “technology saves the tourism
world” take shape.
Stories to Watch
■ Look for amped up teasing out of Star
Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, an increasing intensity
of material from news to marginalia on Disney’s in-development attraction—and related
offerings in the far-flung empire. A virtual reality experience—Star Wars: Secrets of the
Empire—is scheduled to open Jan. 5 at
Downtown Disney to whet fan furor; note the
naming protocol—“Star Wars: [Blank
Blank]”—and that the VR deal is global;
other sites are Disney World and a London
mall. The Star Wars planet that Galaxy’s
Edge is ostensibly on got its name in midNovember—Batuu—and next year the project will get an opening date for 2019.
■ Hotel renovations are rising as surely as
the tides: Markets heat up for acquisition and
new owners have to spruce up the place; the
sector goes big on development, and existing
hotels have to “take it up to 11” to keep pace.
Sometimes it’s just time. Hotels refresh at the
seven-year-itch: new linens, the trends and
times are passing them by … they need a
It’s not you. It’s them.
Hyatt Regency Orange County—in Garden Grove on Harbor near Disney—got a
new general manager who has helmed two,
eight- to nine-figure renovations for highprofile Hyatts in Hawaii and San Francisco;
a third is expected here.
Mid-market product refresher ParkWest
General Contractors in Anaheim reports an
uptick in business.
And in the first finished project of 2018, a
$30 million redo turns the former Fairmont
into Renaissance Newport Beach on Jan. 23.
■ Excluding “lifestyle” hotels, new builds
and boutiques, hotels aren’t known for early
adoption of coming-down-the-pike technologies. Twenty Four Seven Hotels in Newport
Beach has done yeoman’s big-data work, and
Irvine Marriott (see startups column, page
22) is a test lab of innovation, but a chain
must wait—and wonder and worry—
whether the next new new thing is gonna
make it. 2018 will see a wider adoption of
recent hospitality electronica—from curated
content to guest- and employee-interaction
systems, to food, social and fitness apps.
■ With a word so overused as branding,
you’d think we can’t say there’ll be a “renewed focus”—but renewed focus can only
be good for a cliché, and besides it’s happening. Witness this month’s renaming of Island
Hotel to Fashion Island Hotel to tie it
tighter to the high-end shopping center
across the street. Following Irvine Co. is a
local pastime, so OC properties will look at
ways of pulling together diverse elements—
geography, marketing, food. In on the branding renaissance: the Renaissance (see
above), which has distinct and distinctive
ideas about how it wants to see and be seen
■ Here’s a wild card for you to play next
year: some industry watchers see a Chinese
fire sale in 2018. It’d be the flippest of flipsides—a total reverse of prior years’ go-go
buying spree by Middle Kingdom investors.
“The money was here, but they’re already
starting to divest themselves,” said Alan
Reay of broker-consultant Atlas Hospitality
Group in Irvine.
He said the sale of trophy properties will
In November Beijing-based former buyer
Wanda Group put five global projects—including approved luxury hotels—up for sale
for $5 billion. China government guidelines
on overseas investment released in August
put hotel-buying on the naughty list.
Local hotels owned by China-based investors include Hilton Irvine and the former
Fairmont, both near John Wayne Airport, and
high-end coastal resorts Ritz-Carlton and
Montage, both owned by Anbang Insurance Group Co. in Beijing.
Last Year’s Stories
■ Two last things to say that our hospitality
predictive skill is kind of a big deal: Our
company to watch in 2017 was Pacific Hospitality Group, and our person to watch was
Jay Burress, chief executive of Visit Anaheim.
Hotel owner-operator PHG opened AC
Hotel Irvine, sold premier resort Bacara
near Santa Barbara, and bid adieu to President Steve Arnold, with founder and Chief
Executive Tim Busch taking that role.
Visit Anaheim expanded its sports events
work, moved into new digs near Anaheim
Stadium, and began to see the fruits of its
selling into the 200,000-square-foot expansion of Anaheim Convention Center.
Even a blind squirrel … ■
Disneylandʼs Star Wars: Galaxyʼs Edge could lift a lot of hospitality boats when it opens in 2019.
Itʼll serve up a virtual-reality appetizer next month in Downtown Disney
2018 Preview: HOSPITALITY & TOURISM
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