Orange County and California beckon
“California is home to the largest Middle Eastern immigrant population in the US, with one of the hot spots right here in The OC,” says OCVA president Ed Fuller. “The Little Arabia District celebrates Arab culture and cuisine in the heart of Orange County, so visitors craving a taste of home have their pick of fantastic Halal cuisine in multiple cities throughout the region.”
Little Arabia in Anaheim comprises ethnic markets, halal butcher shops, restaurants, cafes, bakeries, hookah lounges, clothing stores, beauty salons and much more. Arab-American expats have been drawn to the region for decades and it’s now a beacon for travellers seeking a taste of Arabian culture.
In addition to Little Arabia, Orange County boasts nearly 20 different halal restaurants across the region. The OC’s many authentic halal dining options cover multiple ethnicities including Chinese, Thai, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines.
The Orange County Visitors Association’s Dubai outpost promotes Orange County tourism to guests from Gulf countries. In addition to welcoming restaurants, Middle Eastern travellers find an endless amount of attractions to explore, from the original Disneyland Resort to shopping at the world-famous South Coast Plaza and Fashion Island to luxury oceanfront resorts to historic monuments, museums, and so much more. This diversity and incredible coastal location makes The OC a premier and cultured California destination.
“With Emirates, Etihad Airways and Saudi Airlines currently serving our market, we believe Orange County is the perfect locale for visitors to experience the best of Southern California,” says Fuller.
“In 2018, we had 4.67 million visitors from overseas, and the Gulf countries ranked number eight. We think that Gulf will be at number seven this year. While there's still long-term stays during summer, we are actually seeing some increased visitation in October and also, all year around. And that's excellent. The hotels are telling us that the pre bookings for guests from the Middle East are up dramatically over the last year.”
“We like to think that we're the heart of southern California because we can get up to Los Angeles in an hour, but we don't have a big city so we're safer. Orange County is just beautiful rolling land and unrestricted access to 42 miles of beaches.”
“One product that we're continuing to work on is medical tourism; University of California at Irvine is developing a new medical centre. America is a safe place to invest and particularly in Orange County, we see that investment tourism will continue to flourish.
“We just opened a Marriott Hotel in Irvine that has 50 suites and is ideal for Middle Easterners. We just opened a brand new hotel called Lido House in Newport, which has five villas, and this is in the harbour area of Newport. We also have a new JW Marriott under construction in Anaheim, a brand new Best Western under construction, also in Anaheim but probably the biggest construction news is that of Star Wars land in Disneyland. It cost over a billion dollars to build and it will open on May 31, perfect for the summer.
“IPW 2019 takes place in Orange County this year in June, so we have a lot of people coming in,” says Fuller.
Visit California, the tourism promotional corporation for the US State of California, declared the UAE and GCC in general as markets to be targeted with increased and renewed focus supported by expanded marketing investment and ongoing engagement. The announcement was made at a press conference held at the Loft – Dubai Opera on April 24 2019, where nine CEOs representing various communities within California confirmed their commitment to the UAE and Gulf States as a region to proactively target with ongoing travel industry, consumer and media campaigns, to be launched from April 2019 onwards.
Visit California promotes itself to travellers from the region through its “All Dreams Welcome” campaign, designed to roll out the red carpet to all international visitors, no matter their background. Wide-reaching campaigns will be implemented to inspire a myriad of traveller interests, with a particular focus given to family travel and travellers seeking unique Californian luxury experiences. During the mission, a “Kidifornia” campaign will be launched among the UAE’s top social media influencers to highlight the great family attractions the state has to offer, while luxury experiences will hold a bespoke approach steeped in a philosophy of luxury guided by an adventurous spirit, a playful approach to life, and a love of the original, the unique and the innovative.
Visit California anticipates 264,000 Middle Eastern travellers to visit the Golden State in 2019, marking a pronounced rebound in travel from the region after declines following the federal administration transition in 2017. By 2022, growth in travel from the Middle East is projected to approach 300,000 visitors, outpacing several of the state’s current top target markets.“Now is the perfect time for us to tell travellers that all dreams are welcome in California,” said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California. “We are kicking off our activities in the Middle East at the highest level with a delegation of nine senior executives all eager to learn as much as possible about this dynamic market so we can provide experiences that are attractive, exciting and inspirational to Middle Eastern guests, and deliver diverse and welcoming hospitality, luxury offerings, and countless awe-inspiring adventures.”