ORANGE COUNTY, CA-Owners of hotels, malls and theme parks should be among the big winners next week—and possibly for years to come–when Anaheim plays host to one of the world’s most prestigious travel-industry conferences.

About 1,700 travel agents from Mexico, Central and South America will hold their annual US gathering at the Anaheim Hilton & Towers Sept. 5 to 7. Bringing the conference to this county was a coup for the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau: It’s the first time the meeting has ever been held outside Miami or Orlando.

Though the visitors are expected to swamp local malls, restaurants and theme parks while they’re here, the financial benefits of landing the convention will go far beyond September. About $1.2 billion in travel packages are created at the annual expo, a spokesperson for the convention bureau says, and Orange County enterprises—from hoteliers to theme parks—could get as much as $168 million of it over the next three years.

The importance of wooing travel agents from south of the border hasn’t been lost on OC businesses. Knott’s Berry Farm, Disneyland, several hoteliers and even some mall operators are hosting special events for the visitors, hoping the agents will spread the word to their clients after they go back home.

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