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Disney hotel plans expansion

Times Staff Writer

Disneyland Resort announced plans Tuesday to add 250 units to its luxury Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, including its first 50 time-share offerings on the West Coast.

The lucrative Disney Vacation Club time-share business already has 350,000 members, but 86% of them live on the East Coast. The addition of 50 two-bedroom units in Anaheim marks a push to expand the business in California.

Sales, profit and membership have doubled since 2003, said Jim Lewis, president of Disney Vacation Club. “We want to expand business aggressively,” he said. “We believe we should be going west.”

With only 50 villas scheduled for completion by 2009, there is clearly more room for growth. In Florida, the company offers more than 2,000 units at seven resorts -- six at Walt Disney World and one in Vero Beach. An eighth vacation club is in Hilton Head, S.C.

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Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle joked with Lewis: “I don’t believe California and Anaheim should ever be below what you do in Florida. So that’s the marker, man; you need to start working toward it.”

The 2.5-acre expansion is expected to create 300 union construction jobs and 100 hotel positions. Disney executives declined to release occupancy levels at the Grand Californian, but Disneyland Resort President Ed Grier said he welcomed the additional rooms because guests were turned away “quite frequently” because the hotel was sold out.

The cost of joining Disney Vacation Club starts with a minimum $16,700 one-time purchase price, plus annual maintenance fees of at least $600. Members then buy points and use them to determine where, when and for how long they stay. The average purchase price is $26,000, which buys a two-bedroom unit for one week each year.

“This expansion underscores our commitment to growing and investing in both the Disneyland Resort and the Anaheim Resort area,” Grier said.

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He noted that the resort had changed significantly since 1995, when there was one theme park, one hotel and one “very large parking lot.”

Today the resort has two theme parks, three resort hotels and Downtown Disney, an entertainment, dining and retail venue. The resort area contributed $80 million in bed tax revenue to Anaheim last year and accounted for 54% of the city’s tax revenue.

In research by San Rafael, Calif.-based Market Metrix, which surveys 35,000 North American travelers quarterly, Disney Vacation Club consistently scores as the top time-share choice, ranking first in eight of the last 10 quarters.

The expansion has already been approved by the city.

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It is not related to the squabble over affordable housing that has pitted Disney and Anaheim tourism boosters against the City Council and developers.

Council members have approved zoning to allow as many as 1,500 homes near where Disney eventually plans to build a third park.

A Disney-backed referendum is scheduled for the June ballot to give voters power to overturn the zoning.

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kimi.yoshino@latimes.com


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