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North Bay Business Journal

Thursday, December 13, 2012, 4:24 pm

Napa Valley tourism accelerates

‘Biggest six months we’ve had’

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    NAPA — Just two years after receiving a significant funding boost from a tourism improvement district, tourism in the Napa Valley continues to see an upward trajectory, with a flurry of new events that attract visitors year-round while helping to further establish a regional brand, officials said Thursday.

    At its mid-year sales and marketing update at the Napa Valley Marriott Hotel and Spa, Visit Napa Valley, the county’s official tourism organization, presented findings of the tourism improvement district and laid forth its marketing strategies for the coming year. Early returns are favorable, according to Clay Gregory, chief executive officer of Visit Napa Valley.

    For the 12 months ending in October, hotel occupancy rates were up by 4.8 percent, according to Smith Travel Research. Average daily room rates reached $239.32, up 3.2 percent over the year, while revenue per available room was $155.89, an increase of 8 percent. Total revenue has already surpassed that of 2011, up 10 percent to $258.3 million.

    “That’s a really nice number,” Mr. Gregory said. “The comparison numbers are a lot more robust and it’s really exciting.”

    Since the recession ended in 2010, the region’s hotels have steadily improved — revenues in 2011 were up by nearly 16 percent over the previous year and revenues in 2010 were up 13.4 percent over the year.

    Last year, Visit Napa Valley along with numerous partners launched a number of high-profile events meant to lure visitors during the off-season, starting with the high-profile food and wine festival Flavor Napa Valley, the Napa Valley Film Festival and becoming the official wine region of the American’s Cup, all of which has made the last few months extremely busy for those in the tourism business, Mr. Gregory said.

    “This is clearly the biggest six months we’ve had since we got the funding just over two years ago,” he said, referring to an increased marketing capacity afforded by the TID that put its annual budget at about $4.5 million. And the next six months will also be busy, with America’s Cup coming further into focus, Restaurant Month, Arts in April and other events.

    Fine dining tops wine tourism as No. 1 attraction

    Tourism officials also unveiled early results from a Napa Valley Visitor Profile Study, the first comprehensive look at who visits the area and their travel habits since 2005, according to Mr. Gregory.

    According to preliminary results, fine dining has become the No. 1 attraction, outpacing wine-tasting rooms and wine tours. And the average visitor in the county spends about $356 per day, with about $260 per day on lodging. But 33.7 percent of visitors said wine was the most-liked aspect of Napa Valley, while 20.6 percent said it was the food.

    Nearly 94 percent of those surveyed said they would likely return to the region, with 76.3 percent saying it was “very likely.” And nearly 93 percent of visitors came from the U.S., with intrastate travelers making up the lion’s share of that, at 46.6 percent.

    Mr. Gregory said the continued improvement of the tourism sector is clearly attributable to the TID, a 2 percent assessment on visitors’ rooms, which in turn has spurred a more collaborative approach to drawing visitors from the varied interests of the county.

    “To get everyone working together is a very Napa Valley action,” he said.

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