By Lew Avera
Last month, I wrote about our powerful population in Orange County, with Orange and San Diego counties being the fifth and sixth largest counties in the U.S. in population. Our population is 3.2 million with 34 incorporated cities. San Clemente is one of the 34 and is a median city with a population of 65,000. Also, Orange County is one of the smallest counties geographically in the state. I did not cover any of the factors which drive these phenomenal numbers. There are, however, many tourists and other visitors that contribute to these statistics. Others are commercial/businesses and residential lifestyle.
Central to any of this thinking is how it relates to and affects our wonderful lifestyle in San Clemente.
I have done significant research on many of these factors. According to Visit California, in 2016, Orange County had 4.4 million international tourists along with some 4.8 million from the U.S. for a total of some-8.2 million. The report also states that international tourists spend more money than domestic tourists; they stay longer and spend a significant amount of time shopping at our major shopping centers. In fact, several of our major shopping centers are designed specifically to meet these needs and attract foreign visitors. Tourists from abroad are reported to have spent $12.1 billion, up 6.8 percent from 2015. Still, another related statistic from the Orange County Business Journal says traffic at John Wayne Airport was 10.5 million passengers in 2016, many of whom were visitors.
In a survey from the OCBJ, the 50 largest hotels in the county have a total of 21,841 rooms. This does not include a myriad of smaller hotels and rooming arrangements. At a rate of $150 a night, which is minor for major hotels, this could result in $3,276,150 per night when fully occupied.
The OCBJ indicates there are 164,000 jobs in Orange County related to the tourist industry. In addition, there are 14 new hotels and 2,188 new rooms under construction and due to be opened in 2018. These factors reflect a distinctive orientation toward “conventions” and “convention centers” in the county. Although hotels may become such centers, they are not the main convention centers but rather support such centers as the Anaheim Convention Center.
There is so much more to be said about how our population drives and relates to such a vibrant, successful and influential Orange County. I plan to continue this analysis in the future. However, it is interesting to think about how we in San Clemente view these factors and how they relate to our well-being and ways of life. In spite of much growth over recent years, we remain a wonderful “Village by the Sea.” We have very few hotel rooms in San Clemente, but the visitors here certainly contribute in many ways, many indirectly, to our wonderful and pleasant lives.
Lew Avera is a retired career officer, Lt. Col., U.S. Marine Corps. He has been a director of the Talega HOA since 2003 and served on the San Clemente Planning Commission from 2005 to 2013.