Visit Newport Beach Inc. Gives Annual Report to City Council

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Tourism is alive and well in Newport Beach, according to Gary Sherwin, President of Visit Newport Beach and its umbrella organization, Newport Beach and Company.

Sherwin provided an overview of his organization’s activities and initiatives that support Newport Beach as a destination for visitors and conferences during this week’s City Council Study Session.

Sherwin noted that the Transient Occupancy Tax, or TOT, has been healthy in 2013, with an occupancy average of 72.7 percent, up 9 percent over last year. Average daily room rate rose by 9 percent, while revenue rose 10.6 percent.

“In August, occupancy rate was up 2 percent, and revenue up 19.7 percent–when the heat is on and the weather is good, it’s great for business,” Sherwin told the council during his presentation.

The big news, said Sherwin, was that Newport Beach will host the teams and news media that will play in the college football championship BCS game in Pasadena in early January.

“The teams will be in Newport Beach after Christmas and stay through the game,” he said. “It will have a phenomenal impact for the city. We will be in a sell-out condition.”

Sherwin expects most hotels to be filled to capacity with the equivalent of 4,260 room nights, and an economic impact of at least $3 million.

Sherwin also discussed the Tourism Business Improvement Districts (TBID) year to date revenue, which his presentation showed to be $1.6 million. Estimated hotel revenue is $6.5 million, while return on investment is up 433 percent. Overall economic impact is $15.3 million with shopping and group meetings figured into the total.

Sherwin focused on the Visit Newport Beach brand promise, which he said painted a picture of Newport Beach for visitors.

“Our brand promise is our guiding star, it’s how we operate. It’s all about this brand promise and how we promote Newport Beach with a variety of integrated experiences, and celebrate the neighborhoods that make up the community. This brand promise creates a certain expectation of experience–what the city is going to look like when they get here.”

That brand promise includes marketing Newport Beach as “a coastal fantasyland that represents a taste of the perfect life, a place where visitors can experience a friendly, sophisticated, aspirational lifestyle that permits them to escape from daily reality…the destination offers a combination of affluence, quaintness, casual glamour and attention to detail. This is the place that allows the visitors to relax and recreate the dream of what can be.”

Sherwin noted that key organizational priorities include implementing a community marketing program, increasing conference sales and the L.A. drive market, and to further develop international markets including United Kingdom, Australia and China.

Sherwin thanked NBPD Chief Jay Johnson for partnering on police hospitality training.

“We now have hospitality ambassadors–the entire Newport Bach police force has been trained,” said Sherwin. “We provided a mini map that officers can show to visitors. We think we have one of the most visitor friendly police forces out there.”

Sherwin estimated that 5,000 pocket guides have been distributed to visitors. Similar training is expected to be provided to the fire department and lifeguards in 2014.

During the public comment portion of the study session, several residents questioned the way in which the city was being marketed, including Jim Mosher, who noted that he did not want to be living in a “brand.”

There was little comment from the council, and Mayor Keith Curry thanked Sherwin for Visit Newport Beach’s efforts.

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