How important is tourism to Orange County, or to Newport Beach? Vital. Tourism supports numerous industries, and thousands of jobs across the OC.
Locally, the tourism numbers are impressive. In 2017-18, Newport Beach & Co. statistics show 7.3 million visitors to Newport Beach spent $1.2 billion. Visitors also generated $43 million in taxes, and supported 16,828 jobs.
Put it this way: If you took the tourism industry away, it would cost each Newport Beach household an additional $1,139 in taxes annually. To keep the city’s economy churning at the same levels, it would also cost each Newport Beach household an additional $43,992 in local spending.
That’s why Newport Beach & Co., the creative and community-focused marketing agency that is singularly committed to telling the integrated Newport Beach brand story, was an active participant in the U.S. Travel Association’s annual convention held in June at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Known as IPW, the trade show drives $5.5 billion in future travel to the United States and is attended by 6,500 travel industry delegates and 500 media professionals from more than 70 countries.
Newport Beach was a sponsor, and hosted events and tours, including an event with Visit California next to the Huntington Beach Pier. More than a thousand hand-picked VIPs were invited to this catered beach party, featuring music from surf bands include the legendary Dean Torrance of Jan and Dean fame.
This was only the second time Anaheim has hosted the IPW convention in the past 50 years. The last time was in 2007, soon after current Newport Beach & Co. CEO Gary Sherwin assumed his position with Visit Newport Beach, now an umbrella organization of Newport Beach & Co.
“I had not been here a year, and remember talking to local hotels at that time about IPW and trying to figure out how best to participate, but the hotels told me they don’t get international visitors,” recalled Sherwin. “That was a common refrain in 2007. Look at where we are now. We clearly are an international destination. Hotels now depend on international business. We have gone from a nice regional destination to an international luxury boutique destination. We have changed as a community, so we have to be more sophisticated in how we go about marketing the city.”
Sherwin noted that when he arrived in Newport Beach, he wondered why the marketing was not as good as the destination. He was the man to fix it.
“We tried to elevate the marketing to a sophisticated level, where we are reaching the people who have the means to come here and spend money, stay, have a great time, and go home and tell others,” he said. “And they leave a positive economic footprint here.”
It’s that quintessential aspirational lifestyle that Sherwin says draws visitors to the city’s beaches, boutiques, and restaurants.
“The restaurants here are selling the Newport Beach experience,” affirmed Sherwin, “which is why Newport Beach & Co. created Dine Newport Beach to support the city’s dining establishments.”
Other entities that fall under the Newport Beach & Co. umbrella are: Enterprise Newport Beach, Celebrate Newport Beach, Newport Beach TV, and The Newport Beach Foundation.
“My specialty has always been in branding and what destinations do to effectively brand themselves,” said Sherwin. “We took the Disney model — you have theme parks, hotels, Downtown Disney — they all have their own marketing but they all fall under the power of the Disney brand. When one entity succeeds, the others hopefully succeed. That is what we have applied to our city.”
A lifestyle brand, rather than simply a place to visit, you have more appeal, he added.
“It’s like Tommy Bahama. They are not just selling shirts, they are selling a way of life,” Sherwin noted. “That’s why we wanted to have Dean Torrance at the event. Through songs like his and the Beach Boys, they tell the story of this great lifestyle that is southern California. From surf culture to the beach lifestyle to fast cars, that’s what we stand for here.”
In addition to selling Newport Beach to the world, Sherwin has to sell Newport Beach and Company’s activities to the Newport Beach City Council.
What words of wisdom does he have for the council?
“Do not get caught up in your own awesomeness,” joked Sherwin. “We have to look at what we are doing now, what are the challenges we are facing, what does Newport Beach need? We have a vast array of destination assets and riches; we cannot be complacent.”
Sherwin commented that there are exciting on the horizon, including plans for a renovation of the Balboa Fun Zone by Discovery Cube Orange County. The company purchased much of the Fun Zone two years ago with the idea of continuing their science educational mission to the sea.
For now, Sherwin is focused on the path forward, which is part of his two-year marketing plan for what Sherwin calls “a five-star destination.”
Other cities around the country are looking at Newport Beach as an example of what they can incorporate into their own marketing plans. That is a testament to what Sherwin has done for Newport Beach, and what Newport Beach represents to the world.
“It’s that inspirational lifestyle,” stated Sherwin.