Should we worry? Orange County tourism upswing takes a break

Orange County’s tourist trade looks to have lost some of its magic.


The industries serving out-of-town visitors and local entertainment needs were one of the earliest businesses to recover from the Great Recession with a surprisingly swift and strong rebound.

But early 2017 industry data suggest tourism’s hot hand may now be in doubt. Several factors may be in play.

For starters, it was a wet winter, and unfavorable weather can put a dent in tourism spending.

Also, local tourism’s linchpin, Disneyland, is undergoing some major renovations and upgrades. Such retooling often nudges Magic Kingdom fanatics to delay visits until the refurbished park is ready for viewing.

Plus, added competition – including new hotels and water park – might be making some local tourism executives nervous and causing budgetary tightness.

Finally, external forces – from a strong U.S. dollar making foreign visits more expensive to a tepid economic start to the year nationwide – might be compounding the very local-local challenges.

Here are three key industry benchmarks that suggest, at a minimum, tourism’s long-running upswing has slowed.

More vacancies: Orange County hotels were 75.2 percent filled in the first two months of the year, according to CBRE Hotels data. That’s down a full percentage point from a year ago. Occupancy has risen the previous six years coming out of the recession.

Maybe hotels have become too pricey. Orange County’s average daily rate hit $175 in the first two months of 2017, up 2.5 percent from…

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