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Orange County breaks tourism record with 47 million visitors in 2015

Orange County breaks tourism record with 47 million visitors in 2015
The Activision Blizzard fan convention and tournament championships at the Anaheim Convention Center helped Orange County break its annual tourism record for 2015. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Thanks to the allure of Disneyland and huge growth in convention attendance, Orange County hosted a record 47.3 million visitors last year.

The county's visitor total represents a 3% increase over 2014 and is the second year in a row that the region has set a fresh tourism record, according to Visit Anaheim, the nonprofit organization that promotes tourism for the county.

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Anaheim, home to the most popular U.S. theme park outside Florida, drew 22.5 million visitors, up 3.5% from 2014, according to Visit Anaheim.

Much of the growth is attributed to a 60th-anniversary celebration at the Disneyland Resort last year and a 27.5% increase in visitors to the Anaheim Convention Center, one of the largest convention facilities in Southern California with 815,000 square feet of exhibit space.

The convention center has already broken ground on a 200,000-square-foot expansion to be completed in 2017.

Orange County bested its more populous neighbor to the north, Los Angeles County, which reported a record 45.5 million visitors in 2015, a 2.8% increase from the previous year.

Orange County expects to draw even more visitors in the coming years as it prepares to open several new hotels, including a 600-room hotel with a 105,000-square-foot water park that is set to open in March a few miles from Disneyland in Garden Grove.

"The massive development happening all around the city has positioned us to welcome even more visitors in the upcoming years," said Jay Burress, president and chief executive of Visit Anaheim.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow Hugo Martin on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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