Tourism sustained over 179,000 jobs – 8% of all jobs in Orange County – in 2017

IRVINE, Calif. (October 10, 2018) – The Orange County Visitors Association (OCVA) today announced the results of its recent study: “The Economic Impact of Tourism in Orange County, California.” The analysis, which updates results from 2016, was conducted to demonstrate the significant economic benefits of tourism in important categories like employment, tax generation and business sales. The study confirmed that tourism remains a dynamic driver in the Orange County economy, generating $21.3B in total economic benefits in 2017.

Conducted by Tourism Economics, the study found that tourism sustained 179,100 jobs in 2017, making tourism the 7th largest employer in Orange County. These tourism-related jobs ranged from entry level to executive management and occur across a variety of employment sectors: 56,302 in food and beverage, 34,336 in recreation, 29,045 in lodging and 20,318 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. Specifically, tourism accounted for nearly 97% of Orange County jobs in the lodging sector, about 43% 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. From 2010 to 2017, Orange County’s tourism industry added jobs at a rate of 2.9% annually; that rate is 2.7% for both the state and the county.

“Orange County’s tourism industry is a dynamic engine – providing employment opportunities that help fuel the growth and prosperity of the local economy,” said Jay Burress, Chairman of the Orange County Visitors Association and President & CEO of Visit Anaheim. “The increase in domestic and international tourism, rising to 49.4 million visitors in 2017, is a direct reflection of the energy, creativity and beauty of Orange County – and the warm welcome we provide to those who visit here.”

In addition to providing a strong foundation for Orange County’s business and employment sectors, the study also found that tourism played an important role in supporting local, state and federal governments through taxes and other fees. In 2017, Orange County tourism generated $2.5B in tax revenues, including $715M for the State of California and $437.6M for local government, through sales, lodging and other taxes and fees. These taxes provide much-needed revenues to support public priorities, such as infrastructure, community development and public safety.

The Economic Impact Report states that an estimated 49.4 million visitors traveled to Orange County in 2017, an increase of 2.3% over 2016. Visitor spending on lodging, food, recreation, retail, transportation and air travel also increased, rising 4.1% over 2016 levels to $13.5B. Growth in visitor spending in Orange County remained strong, registering at an average annual increase of 4.8% since 2010. Over the same period, visitor spending grew 4.0% for California overall.

According to the report, just over 37% of overnight domestic visitors to Orange County were from California, with San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles as the top three points of origin. International travelers comprised 9.2% of total visitors to Orange County. Consistent with last year’s study, these visitors hailed primarily from Canada, China and Mexico and accounted for nearly 20% of total tourism-related spending. China continues to be an important source market for visitors to Orange County; Chinese visitors ranked second in terms of international visitor volume and first in international visitor spending in 2017.

The study noted that gasoline prices in the Orange County and Los Angeles regions rose nearly 9% in 2017, but that price levels remained relatively modest which tends to support travel, as well as boost visitor confidence and spending. Tourism Economics also reported that nearly 5.2 million passengers arrived at John Wayne Airport in 2017 and that, while international arrivals represent a small share of that total, nonstop flights from Vancouver, Canada and multiple locations in Mexico have increased that share over the past five years.

“OCVA’s offices in China, Dubai and Mexico confirm what we see here at home on a daily basis: Orange County is a vibrant and exciting destination for travelers from around the globe,” said Ed Fuller, President & CEO of the Orange County Visitors Association. “This economic impact study confirms that, as we share and build ‘the OC’ brand throughout the world, the Orange County economy continues to benefit from longer stays and greater spending from international visitors.”

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.

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.