A tourism study published this month indicates that Newport Harbor generates $202.4 million annually in economic impact to Newport Beach, making it one of the city’s most significant economic anchors.
The nine-month study by Tourism Economics, an international tourism analysis firm, reached the figure after examining spending habits, wages, taxes, the impact of visitors from out-of-town jobs, and the value of resident and business activity within the harbor.
Gary Sherwin, president and CEO of Newport Beach & Co. — the city’s marketing arm, which commissioned the study — said while the community has always recognized the importance of Newport Harbor as an asset, there has never been a study that provided a dollar figure.
Though the coastline typically draws the most visitors each year, the shopping-, dining- and water-related recreational activities on the harbor make it an economic driver for the city, according to Sherwin.
“The harbor is the jewel of our tourism economy and the epicenter for so much of what defines the Newport Beach experience,” Sherwin said. “We sell Newport Beach as more than a place. It’s an aspirational lifestyle and that’s what brings people here. They want a slice of our life.”
Through sales and property taxes, as well as the Tide and Submerged Land Fund from residents, visitors and businesses on or directly surrounding the harbor area, the harbor generates $46 million in annual tax revenue to the city. Harbor visitors also directly spend an additional $156.4 million in the city each year, the study determined.
Activities and business on the harbor generate $348.1 million in economic benefits to Orange County as a whole, according to the study.
“Two main components of the harbor’s economic significance include out-of-town visitors who spend money at local establishments during their trip to the harbor and the residential and businesses activity within the harbor that ripples throughout the countywide economy,” the study states.
Newport Beach & Co. commissioned the study at the suggestion of City Councilmen Scott Peotter and Marshall “Duffy” Duffield, who inquired about the economic value of the harbor earlier this year after reviewing harbor improvements the city will be tasked with funding in the next several decades.
The most expensive of them will likely be the repair or replacement of the sea walls, estimated to cost between $14 million for short-term fixes to $68 million for a long-term rebuild, according to a city staff presentation last year.
The city will also be tasked with dredging, as needed, to maintain and improve water quality.
“That’s going to be on our nickle in the future, and we have to do it in a way that’s economically affordable,” Duffield said.
Duffield said the city’s Tidelands Fund — used for expenses related to the harbor and beaches — cannot fully support all the necessary improvements to the harbor in the coming years. He said it’s unfair to put the burden solely on the backs of commercial businesses, mooring holders and homeowners who live around the harbor.
The study, he said, will hopefully reinforce Newport Harbor’s benefit to the entire city, so that all residents realize the need to fund harbor improvement projects.
“To try and quantify more directly what these figures are is really important to our future with regard to capital improvement projects in our harbor,” Duffield said.