Napa tourism posts solid gains

NAPA -- Tourism in the Napa Valley has seen positive growth over the last 12 months and is poised to climb upward in the near future, as the region readies for the upcoming America's Cup and the Napa Valley Destination Council rolls out several new aggressive marketing strategies, industry leaders said Thursday.

Hotel room revenue over the past 12 months totaled $244 million for the entire region, an increase of 12.6 percent, according to Smith Travel Research. Additionally, occupancy rates are up by 6.9 percent, average daily room rates were up by 5.1 percent -- at $232.69 -- and revenue per available room was up to $149.45, a 12.4 increase over the year.

Clay Gregory, chief executive officer of the Destination Council, said the results reflect overall traveler sentiment, which is increasingly positive.

"I can tell you that traveler sentiment is more positive than it has been in years," Mr. Gregory said. "We can see from our research that people are planning on staying longer. The per-person spending is excitedly higher than it has been in some years."

The year-over-year results, along with new initiatives geared toward boosting tourism in the Valley, were unveiled Thursday at the Meritage Resort and Spa, where the Destination Council held its annual sales and marketing Outlook Conference. 

Mr. Gregory said in the coming year that much of the focus will be on the America's Cup in San Francisco, for which the Napa Valley, in a partnership with the Napa Valley Vintners Association, is the official wine sponsor.

"This year we will be very involved with that," he said.  "We'll be putting together special America's Cup packages to maximize the impact of being the  America's Cup official wine sponsor."

Importantly, Mr. Gregory said, the America's Cup and the Napa Valley have similar target demographics -- those in their late 30s to 50s, with  average household incomes of $128,000 (Napa's is about $200,000) and who enjoy outdoor life and are avid sports fans.

The Destination Council will also focus on increasing its domestic markets, it will revamp and rename its website -- to simply -- and will continue efforts to draw visitors during the off season in the winter months. Recent efforts to that end include the star-studded Flavor Napa Valley food and wine festival and Cabernet Season, both of which run in the winter months.

Most of the these efforts, Mr. Gregory said, are made possible by the enactment of the region's tourism improvement district, which went into effect barely two years ago. The TID, a two percent assessment on lodging rooms that goes into a promotional fund, generates just north of $4 million annually, which dwarfs the Destination Council's previous budget of $437,000. The TID was approved in Spring 2010 but didn't begin yielding revenue until about November 2010, meaning it's only been in effect for about a year and a half.

The boosted budget has paid off  in fast fashion, Mr. Gregory said, adding that TID revenue is expected to grow by about 8 percent this year.

"I think we have accomplished a tremendous amount, and we're really just getting started," he said. "The Napa Valley, in general, feels like we've come a long way in short time."

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