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Tourism —Local tourism attractions pull together to counter Disneyland’s hype

Up in Anaheim, it’s not such a small world after all.

Ask the executives in San Diego’s tourism industry. They face a major attack on market share in the upcoming year, as Disneyland prepares to launch the biggest expansion in its 45-year history.

With its February opening, the $1.4 billion project, anchored by the new Disney’s California Adventure park, will turn the theme park into a full-fledged resort. It also will have an entertainment district and additional Disney-owned hotels that give the entire property more than 2,000 guest rooms.

Disney’s motivation , increasing its visitors’ length of stay , has long been clear to its regional competitors, including San Diego.

Now, more than four years since Disney’s announcement about the expansion, San Diego’s strategies are being finalized.

“We’re all looking at this in a very guarded manner,” said Sal Giametta, vice president of community relations for the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We’re not certain how significant the impact will be, but it certainly is cause for concern.”

He continued, “The reality is, there hasn’t been a new attraction of this magnitude in Southern California for a number of years, and so that’s certainly going to grab not only regional and national attention, but also international attention.”

Industry projections have 7-10 million visitors attending Disney’s resort this first year.

Widening Visitors’ Focus

While a plus is that the new park will help take market share from major national competitors, such as Florida and Las Vegas, San Diego must find ways to work the Disney hype into a focus on the entire region, Giametta said.

ConVis has coordinated a press kit highlighting the county’s four main attractions , SeaWorld San Diego, Legoland, the San Diego Zoo and the Wild Animal Park.

They are timed to arrive as Disneyland packages hit media outlets next month, he said.

The kits represent what many in the local industry consider unprecedented cooperation between the four attractions.

The cooperative campaign also includes advertising in the in-room magazines in hotels and motels in Anaheim and billboard advertising in Anaheim and Los Angeles, Giametta said. It is expected to cost $50,000 over the next six to nine months, he said.

ConVis also hopes to draw industry and media attention to San Diego in May, when it holds its second family travel conference, he said.

Bob Rauch, a local hotel analyst, thinks the approach is smart.

‘Proactive’ Response

“This is as opposed to taking the negative approach of ‘We’re going to get beat up in February, so let’s just reduce our rates and cut our costs and survive it,'” he said. “I think we’re attacking it in a very proactive way.”

As long as consumer confidence stays high, San Diego’s visitor industry will be very successful in 2001, Rauch said.

However, a basic challenge still exists, he said. Although local attractions will have new rides, shows or exhibits this year , Legoland’s already revealed plans for a new roller coaster, part of a 4.8-acre expansion , nothing will be as huge as what’s happening in Anaheim.

Disney’s development does add pressure to San Diego to develop its own leisure product, Giametta said. He pointed out SeaWorld and the zoo’s large-scale expansion projects, both of which ConVis has supported.

“This should be a signal to all of us here of how important those expansions will be in the big picture,” he said. Disney has already announced plans for a third theme park, to open in 2003.

Joint Packages?

For now, the most obvious sales solution is creating packages with the new resort, but it’s not likely, Rauch said. “Disney keeps their information very close to the vest and they are not ones to co-promote very easily,” he said.

However, the industry just needs to take it a step further, by working with third parties such as tour wholesalers and travel agents, he said.

According to Giametta, the Disney resort will eventually want to create joint packages, particularly to draw the overseas market.

“The objective there is to bring more people to the United States and to California, where we can all have the opportunity to get our hands on them,” he said.

In North County, San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau North is focusing its efforts on making San Diego an overnight stay for Disney visitors.

With some of its members 45 minutes from the resort, the new park presents an opportunity, said Cami Mattson, the bureau’s CEO.

Like its counterpart in the city of San Diego, Mattson’s organization has found the Disney opening has sparked more member cooperation and bureau branding.

Along with heavier advertising this spring, the bureau plans to develop its Web site as a way to book entire vacation packages, she said.

The local theme parks have their own plans to lure the leisure markets.

Along with their regular advertising, SeaWorld has additional campaigns, some involving ticket pricing, that they’ll announce next month, said Ed Litrenta, the park’s vice president of marketing.

According to Mark Germyn, president of Legoland California, his park’s approach will include additional billboard and magazine advertising in Anaheim, other marketing in the Los Angeles area, public relations efforts, and other programs being done through the park’s owner, the Lego Group.

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