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New Visit Anaheim Leader Brings Hotel and DMO Heft to the Table

Photo of Mike Waterman standing to the right of the Visit Anaheim logo.

Hospitality industry veteran Mike Waterman, who in April was tapped to lead Southern California’s Visit Anaheim as president and CEO, picked an opportune time to join a DMO that operates the largest convention center on the West Coast in a destination that boasts one of the top visitor attractions in the world, Disneyland.

[Related: Visit Anaheim Appoints Mike Waterman President and CEO]

Anaheim has embarked on $10 billion worth of development projects that will radically change both the leisure and meetings lures of the destination and has also welcomed Marriott Luxury Collection properties JW Marriott Anaheim Resort and The Westin Anaheim Resort, a hotel chain scale segment it has desired for years.

“It’s truly a remarkable time to be in the business of selling and promoting Anaheim,” Waterman said. “You’ve got OCVIBE, privately funded by [Anaheim Ducks owners the Samueli family], which is four times larger than LA Live, at 130 acres. It’s going to connect the ARTIC Train Station to the Honda Center, and there’s going to be a mixed-use development with multiple hotels, restaurants, attractions, food courts—it’s going to elevate the experience for Anaheim.”

OCVIBE is expected to take between $4 billion-$6 billion and four to six years to finish, which could see its doors open just in time for the 2028 Los Angeles Summer Olympics. (Honda Center is bidding to be the Games’ volleyball venue.)

Disney is also contributing to the investment in Anaheim, having just gotten approval for a $2 billion expansion of its Disneyland theme park. Anaheim also stands to benefit from the 2026 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament, which is set for the Greater Los Angeles area, the 2027 Los Angeles Super Bowl and then the largest travel trade exhibition in the U.S., IPW, in 2030—just in time for the 75th anniversary of Disneyland. 

Fortunately, Waterman is no stranger to the spotlight, having led the Houston CVB (including hosting a Super Bowl) and holding the position of chief sales officer for one of the largest DMOs in the nation, Visit Orlando, before moving west.

[Related: Visit Anaheim Joins Big Brothers Big Sisters Workplace Mentoring Program]

A Job Not Without Challenges

With billions of development dollars pouring in, the Anaheim job is definitely a plum assignment, but it didn’t come without some baggage. 

The city and DMO were rocked by a spending, oversight and contracting scandal that resulted in the resignation of previous President and CEO Jay Burress in November 2023 following allegations that $1.5 million was channeled to an Anaheim Chamber of Commerce-controlled nonprofit at the direction of Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu. Sidhu resigned in May 2022 following an FBI corruption investigation surrounding allegations that $1 million in campaign contributions from Los Angeles Angels executives were tied to land sale negotiations for a new stadium. Sidhu as well as Anaheim Chamber of Commerce CEO Todd Ament both plead guilty to federal charges in 2023.

“My predecessor, literally, made a mistake; he didn’t get Board approval. That’s it, period,” said Waterman, who believes Burress was mainly guilty of poor judgment and not involved in a conspiracy. “So, on my first week of the job, I was given the opportunity to address our mayor, Ashleigh Aitken, and city commissioners, and I apologized. I said, ‘Look, if Visit Anaheim’s actions in any way created a discomfort for you or your staff, I apologize, and I can assure you under my watch it will never happen again.’”

Waterman’s Career Journey

Waterman was born and raised in southern New Hampshire and attended the University of New Hampshire, graduating with a hospitality degree.

His first hotel job was with Stouffer Resorts, which was a small, 23-property hotel company under the Nestlé foods umbrella. New World Development (owner of the Renaissance and Ramada hotel brands) bought Stouffer in 1993, beginning his 11-year stint with Renaissance Hotels and Resorts. In 1997, Marriott International bought Renaissance Hotel Group. 

“Because they’re all acquisitions, all my years of service got grandfathered in, so I technically retired from Marriott at 49 years old with 26 years of Marriott experience and then was recruited to go into the CVB/DMO space,” he said.
Waterman’s eventual tenure at Visit Orlando was notable mostly because of the destination’s proactive stance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

[Related: Visit Anaheim Becomes Certified Autism Center as Part of City-Wide Accessibility Initiative]

“We hosted what we think was the first live in-person event, in July of 2020: AAU girls’ volleyball,” Waterman said. “We hosted 14,000 attendees—no spectators, just athletes, coaches and umpires for four days—and that was what we think was the first live in-person event in North America if not the world…We sort of proved that we had this thing figured out—we could make it happen—and from July 2020 to December ’21, we hosted over 150 events.”
Waterman’s journey back to Southern California marks a return to one of his homes.

“I had lived in Southern California because this was my market when I was with Marriott, so it’s very comfortable. It really feels like coming home,” he said. “And then again, I saw such opportunity with all this future growth and taking it to the next level, and we’ve already started doing that.”

Curriculum Vitae

Major career highlights of Mike Waterman, new president and CEO of Visit Anaheim:

  • April 2024-Present
    President and CEO
    Visit Anaheim
  • August 2019-April 2024
    Chief Sales Officer
    Visit Orlando
  • May 2015-May 2019
    Greater Houston CVB
  • 2004-June 2015 
    Vice President Sales  
    Marriott Hotels
  • 2001-2004
    Regional Director of Sales and Marketing 
    Renaissance Hotels and Resorts
  • 1993-2001
    Regional Sales Leader
    Renaissance Hotels and Resorts  
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About the author
Tyler Davidson | Editor, Vice President & Chief Content Director

Tyler Davidson has covered the travel trade for nearly 30 years. In his current role with Meetings Today, Tyler leads the editorial team on its mission to provide the best meetings content in the industry.