Board urges backing of cities; would fund countywide promotion

NAPA— The Napa County Board of Supervisors is backing formation of a Tourism Business Improvement District meant to attract more visitors via an aggressive, countywide marketing campaign that would promote more than just the wineries.

Hotels, restaurants, caterers and wedding planners, among others, all stand to benefit from the TBID, which would assess a 2 percent tax on visitors’ hotel fees, supporters said. The board is encouraging the counties' cities to join in the effort.

According to Clay Gregory, CEO of the Napa Valley Destination Council, the fee would raise $3.5 million annually and would be distributed as such: three quarters to countywide marketing efforts and the remaining quarter — or 0.05 percent — to the individual cities of Napa County for their own promotions.

Rex Stults of the Napa Valley Vintners Association, which represents 375 wineries in Napa, said the association is “100 percent supportive” of the TBID. “There needs to be a countywide effort,” he said, noting that Napa’s nearest competitor, Sonoma, has a distinct advantage with tourism because it already has a TBID in place and promotes more than just the wineries themselves.

“This is the rising tide that raises all ships,” he said.

“Sonoma has learned from us with the conjunctive labeling, and Napa is learning from Sonoma” when it comes to broader, countywide strategies, Mr. Stults added. Whereas Sonoma County allocated $1.5 million in 2009 to countywide marketing, Napa contributed $437,000 to the Napa Valley Destination Council.

Mr. Gregory said the biggest hurdle now is convincing the various city councils of Napa to support the TBID. American Canyon Mayor Leon Garcia recently voiced support for the TBID, and Mr. Gregory said plans are in place to meet with Napa, St. Helena, Yountville and Calistoga in March. Mr. Gregory and Mr. Stults both stressed that the 2 percent fee imposed on hotels would not be redirected into cities’ general funds, and by law those revenues must go back into the marketing campaigns.

Mr. Gregory hopes to have the TBID implemented in Napa by July 1.