Commentary: Visit Newport Beach is not calling for airport expansion

Re. "Commentary: Marketing JWA hurts Newport Beach," (July 26): I read with interest and amazement Bob Hawkins letter regarding service to John Wayne Airport and the role of Visit Newport Beach. As the immediate past chairman of the organization, it is a subject I know a lot about.

Visit Newport Beach, as the city's marketing agency, is charged with filling up hotels with visitors, which in turn pay room tax, one of the largest revenue generators for the city of Newport Beach.

No room tax means a lesser quality of life for all residents of Newport Beach, without question. To effectively fill up hotels, the rule of thumb is that you need a good transportation mechanism to get people here.

Let me be very clear – Visit Newport Beach and Gary Sherwin, its CEO — has no interest in changing or altering the current or proposed Settlement Agreement between the city, the air service groups such as Air Fair and the airport.

Everyone respects and honors the rules and restrictions that are in place. In the current proposed agreement, all parties have agreed to the terms and unless we are mistaken, the rules do not call for the airport to be shut down or disabled.

If the airport is going to continue to exist, and everyone believes that is the case, it is in all of our best interest to make sure the airport is going to generate the highest and most productive use for the city of Newport Beach, given the settlement agreement. No one is arguing for expansion. We are arguing for the flights that do come in to best serve our economic interest.

That means working with the airlines to secure routes that will be carrying productive and hopefully hotel-bound visitors who will leave their cash behind in which we all benefit. Some of these routes may end up replacing lesser productive routes. The goal is not adding more planes, but to make each plane that does come in count.

That is what we expect Visit Newport Beach to champion on our behalf. Let's honor the work Airfair, and other community groups as well as the city has accomplished by finishing the proposed Settlement Agreement. We can do that and also work to have a more effective airport. The goals are not mutually exclusive.

TOM JOHNSON is the immediate past chairman of Visit Newport Beach and the former publisher of the Daily Pilot. He lives in Newport Beach.

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