The tourism industry in Sonoma County has rebounded from a difficult past two years and looks to be even better this year,  the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau said this morning at its annual gathering.

Hotel stays increased by 7 percent since 2009 and look to increase by the same amount this year, said Ken Fischang, chief executive officer of the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau.

Mr. Fischang also said transient occupancy tax numbers have steadily increased and so have funds from the county business improvement area, a two percent assessment on hotels that funds tourism promotional efforts.

Amid a still teetering economy, "tourism can be the bright spot, because TOTs are up," he said, adding that Sonoma County has outperformed the rest of the state as a destination.

"We did more than double in TOT than competitors like Napa or Santa Barbara," he said.

A strong fourth quarter last year and a projected increase this year has tourism officials confident.

"It's going to take longer for other destinations to get back to [2008 levels]. We expect to be there next quarter," Mr. Fischang said.

In 2010, the BIA generated about $2.5 million, or 62 percent of the county bureau's budget. County TOT accounted for approximately 35 percent, at about $1.4 million.

For the 2011  budget, revenue from the BIA is expected to be 7 percent more than 2010, at a total of $2.6 million, or 61 percent of the total budget. TOT funds in 2011 will increase by two percent, at about $1.5 million, or 34 percent of the total budget.