President George Lesley began the meeting with an expression of gratitude to God for our continuing health; for the success of our COVID-19 vaccination programs; and that we continue to follow the rules in order to put the pandemic behind us. George then asked for rain, but not on the weekends! Shirley Lashmett then led the group of 23 live attendees and a couple of Zoomers in the flag salute. George followed with this week’s trivia about “canals”:…..The Suez Canal, completed in November, 1869, con-nects the Red Sea and the Mediterranean; it is 120 miles long, 79’ deep, and accommodates about 18,000 ships/year…..Construction of the Panama Canal, began in 1881 by the French, but was stopped after 3 years because of yellow fever and other ailments which resulted in the deaths of over 200,000 workers. Work was resumed in 1901 and the canal opened in August, 1914. The Panama Canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, is 89 miles long, 43’ deep, has 6 locks, and about 14,000 ships pass through it each year…..The Erie Canal connects Lake Erie and the Atlantic Ocean, is 253 miles long, 4’ deep, and has 57 locks.
Wally Ziglar will be entertaining us next week with his choice of trivia…..Next week’s featured speaker will be Genton Knapp, who chairs the O.C. Veterans Collaborative, and who was Diane Daruty’s luncheon guest at our February 25th meeting…..A news release appeared in the Newport Beach Independent detailing our $10,000 donation to the Balboa Museum…..Dr. Bob Wood announced the stepping down of our valued member, Steve Pool, as co-editor of the Spindrift, and has asked if one of our members would consider co-editing our newsletter once a month. If so, please notify Dr. Bob or George.
Pres. George introduced Gary Sherwin, President and CEO of Newport Beach & Co (NB&C), a private, non-profit corporation that contracts with the City of Newport Beach for marketing services, focusing on tourism. NB&C also runs Newport Beach TV, the Restaurant Association, and is the marketing arm for Balboa Island, Balboa Village, and the Christmas Boat Parade (which will return this year!)
In his last presentation to us last September, Gary painted a rather bleak picture of the tourism industry because of the pandemic. In September, the City of Anaheim, without the Convention Center and Disney-land, and with empty hotel rooms, stores and restaurant closures, no sporting events, etc., incurred an indebtedness of over $330 million to stay afloat this year. In Newport Beach, hotel occupancy dropped from over 80% to 7% beginning in March, 2020. The beaches were closed during July 4th last summer, the Renaissance and Fashion Is-land Hotels closed. Currently, business travel is still off; meetings and conventions are on hold. The negative financial impact of 2020 was 7 times the losses incurred during 9/11.
We are now one year from the beginning of COVID-19, and we have turned the corner. In February, NB&C worked out a deal with Saks 5th Avenue in New York City to advertise Newport Beach in their storefront windows. Hotel occupancy in NB is currently 42%, still not good, but improving over last year. The average daily hotel room rate in NB during the pandemic was retained at $240/night, whereas Anaheim dropped their hotel rates on average to $80/night. Profits for the NB hotels during the pandemic were about $200/night, whereas Anaheim dropped to $19/night. Beach activity is improving, and people are starting to fly again. International business is still dead, with the exception of Dubai and Sau-di. Business conventions pay most of the bills, but improvement in this area is not expected until the end of 2021. Airport travel to and from JWA is changing with direct flights to New York and Hawaii, and an increase in the number of discount air-lines: Spirit Airlines, Sun Country, and 6 other cheap airlines.
The vaccine rollout has produced a higher level of comfort with respect to travel. Vaccination cards may be requested as proof for some international travel. Proof is not as yet required for domestic travel but some venues, e.g. concerts, sporting events, etc. may require it. It would be a good idea to photograph or laminate your CDC card just in case.
The CDC is still advising against non-essential travel, but lots of people are ignoring it. A high percentage of people are planning to travel in the near future. Short-term rentals have been outperforming hotels because of perceived sense of security.
The Newport Marriott Hotel , the largest hotel in NB (518 rooms), will be undergoing a $55 M renovation which will dramatically transform the hotel, to be completed around Thanksgiving this year. For more information, see Gary’s column in Stu News Newport.
Shirley Lashmett brought her roll of raffle tickets with her, and worked the whole room. Our esteemed Immediate past-President, Ken Dufour, walked away as this week’s winner.
Recent news: The Pfizer vaccine affords at least 6 months protection after the second dose; it is 91.3% effective in preventing infection, and 100% effective in preventing hospitalization. ….. The Pfizer vaccine has been shown to be 100% effective in kids 12-15. This means that, after vaccination, we should see the middle schools open full time…..COVID antibodies may last from a few days to years, depending on the severity of the infection. A vaccinated person will likely produce a more reliable antibody reaction, so everyone should be vaccinated, whether or not they have had COVID-19….. My opinion on masks and social distancing: they work! Witness the significant decrease in incidence of other respiratory illnesses, e.g. colds, influenza, during the past season. Masks don’t completely block transmission of bacteria and viruses, but they probably reduce the exposure to large numbers of viral particles. Anyway, continue to stay healthy and safe!