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Orange County Tourism Generates $20.5B Benefit to Local Economy

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Tourism sustained over 175,000 jobs - 8% of all jobs in Orange County - in 2016

IRVINE, Calif. (November 15, 2017) - The Orange County Visitors Association (OCVA) today announced the results of its recent study: "The Economic Impact of Tourism in Orange County."  The analysis was conducted to clearly demonstrate the significant economic benefits of tourism in important categories like business sales, employment and tax generation.  The study confirmed that tourism is an important driver in the Orange County economy, generating more than $20.5B in total economic benefits in 2016.

Conducted by Tourism Economics, the study found that tourism sustained more than 175,000 jobs in 2016 and that 1 in 13 jobs in Orange County is associated with tourism.  These tourism-related jobs are found in a variety of sectors and range from entry level positions to mid-level and executive management across a variety of employment sectors:  54,386 in food and beverage, 34,497 in recreation, 28,714 in lodging and 19,935 in retail.  The analysis also highlighted the fact that jobs directly attributable to tourism accounted for a substantial portion of overall Orange County employment in these sectors.  Not surprisingly, tourism accounts for nearly 95% of Orange County jobs in the lodging sector.  Tourism also accounts for about 45% of recreation-related employment, nearly 34% of food & beverage-related employment and almost 8% of employment in the retail sector in Orange County. 

Since 2010, the growth of tourism-related employment has outpaced overall job growth in Orange County and in California. Over the last six years, when job growth has been essential to economic recovery, Orange County's tourism industry added jobs at a rate of 3.1% annually; that rate is 2.7% for the County overall and 2.8% for the state. 

"First-class attractions, sports and cultural venues, shopping, beaches and parks and year-round beautiful weather make Orange County one of the nation's and the world's premier tourist destinations," said Jay Burress, Chairman of the Orange County Visitors Association and President & CEO of Visit Anaheim. "Our visitors - from next door or half-way around the world - provide substantial and distinctive economic benefits for our communities, including the 175,000+ jobs sustained by the Orange County tourism industry last year." 

In addition to providing a strong foundation for Orange County business and employment sectors, the study also found that tourism plays an important role in supporting local, state and federal government through taxes and other fees.  In 2016, tourism generated a total of $2.4B in tax revenues, including $690M for the State of California and $404M for local government through sales, lodging and other taxes and fees.  These taxes provide important revenues to support public priorities, such as infrastructure, community development and public safety.  

The Economic Impact Report states that an estimated 48.2 million visitors traveled to Orange County in 2016, spending a total of $13B on lodging, food, recreation, retail, transportation and air travel. These figures represent the latest year's data and a continuing strong rise in visitor spending.  Between 2010 and 2016, direct visitor spending has grown 33.7% in Orange County compared to a 25.8% increase for California overall. 

According to the report, more than 40% of all visitors to Orange County were from California, traveling here from San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco.  International travelers comprise 9.2% of total visitors to Orange County.  These visitors hailed primarily from Canada, China and Mexico and accounted for nearly 20% of total tourism-related spending.  China has become an increasingly important source market; Chinese visitors ranked second in terms of international visitor volume and first in international visitor spending in 2016. 

"International tourism is a growing and important segment of Orange County's tourism market."  Said Ed Fuller, President & CEO of the Orange County Visitors Association. "OCVA and its members are focused on ensuring that international visitors understand and enjoy all that Orange County has to offer and that the hospitality we extend is as warm and wonderful as our weather." 

Tourism Economics, the firm that conducted the analysis, utilized an IMPLAN model to provide a clear profile of tourism in Orange County, including the relationships among industries and consumers. The model aligned tourism expenditure measurements with related sectors (restaurant, retail, lodging, transportation and recreation) and then simulated the flow of those expenditures through the economy.  Results generated by the model were balanced with known industry measurements to ensure those results were consistent and reasonable when compared with other sources of tourism sector employment and taxes.  

To view a copy of the full report, click here.  


About the Orange County Visitors Association

OCVA represents "The OC" as one of the world's premier travel destinations by providing brand marketing stewardship and information dissemination, collective industry advocacy, and educational opportunities.  As Orange County's leading advocate for tourism, OCVA is the only visitor organization that promotes all of The OC.  Comprised of more than 50 members, including Orange County cities, hotels, restaurants, attractions, service providers and retail establishments, OCVA is fortunate to represent an endlessly appealing destination - one that is versatile enough to tap into an enormous regional market and a growing number of global travelers looking for their own unforgettable California experience.  For more information about OCVA, please visit:

About Tourism Economics

An Oxford Economics company, Tourism Economics works to combine a clear understanding of tourism dynamics with rigorous economics to understand the most important questions facing destinations, developers and strategic planners.  Their team of 15 economists is focused exclusively on the interplay between the travel industry and the economy.  The firm has completed nearly 100 tourism economic impact studies for cities, states, regions and countries around the world. 

Courtney Wiercioch
Cornerstone Communications
(949) 735-0394