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Anaheim breaks visitor record, with crowds flocking to Disneyland and convention center

Anaheim breaks visitor record, with crowds flocking to Disneyland and convention center
The 7th annual VidCon at the Anaheim Convention Center in June drew 26,400 attendees, a 30% increase. The city of Anaheim broke previous records with 23 million visitors in 2016. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Several bustling conventions, a slew of new hotels and an army of Disneyland fans helped the city of Anaheim draw a record 23 million visitors last year, tourism officials said.

The 2016 record, a 2.3% increase over 2015, represents the fourth year in a row that Anaheim has exceeded its previous high total.

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Tourism officials announced last month that Los Angeles County hosted a record 47.3 million visitors in 2016, a 4% increase over the previous year. Airlines and hotels across the country are also reporting healthy demand growth.

Anaheim officials attribute the boost in visitors to an improved economy, the opening of four new hotels, record-setting attendance at several conventions held in the city and big crowds at Disneyland's 60th anniversary celebration.

International visitors from Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand helped bolster Anaheim's tourism numbers.

"More hotels were proposed and built, theme park expansion was announced, the number of breweries doubled — paving the way for us to welcome even more visitors to our awe-inspiring city," said Jay Burress, chief executive of Visit Anaheim, the nonprofit that promotes tourism for the city.

Anaheim got four new hotels last year with a total of 826 rooms, according to Atlas Hospitality Group, a market research firm. The Great Wolf Lodge, a hotel with an indoor water park, opened in nearby Garden Grove with 603 rooms, the most of any hotel that opened in California last year.

Among the conventions held at the Anaheim Convention Center, eight set attendance records including the Natural Products Expo, which drew 77,000 attendees, a 7% increase over the previous trade show. VidCon, a celebration of online videos, drew 26,400 attendees to Anaheim, a 30% increase over its previous gathering.

To read more about the travel and tourism industries, follow @hugomartin on Twitter.

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