ROHNERT PARK -- Tourism in Sonoma County continues to rebound at an encouraging pace, with revenue and hotel occupancy rates besting those of the previous two years, experts said Wednesday at an annual meeting on local tourism.
[caption id="attachment_68550" align="alignleft" width="358"] (from left) Tim McGregor, Sonoma County Tourism board chairman and general manager of Bodega Bay Lodge; Tom Klein, owner of Rodney Strong Vineyards; and Ken Fischang, the tourism group's president and CEO. Mr. Klein won the Sonoma County Tourism Champion award for his work to get Sonoma County moved to the San Francisco Bay Area region on Visit California's tourism directory. (photo credit: Tina Luster)[/caption]
For the fiscal year ended in September, hotel occupancy increased 6.2 percent, while the average daily room rate rose 3.6 percent, according to Sonoma County Tourism. The county's official tourism booster presented last year's results and laid out goals for 2013 at its annual meeting, held at the Doubletree hotel in Rohnert Park.
"Sonoma County's hospitality industry really made strides in 2012," said Ken Fischang, president and chief executive officer of Sonoma County Tourism.
By the end of last December, revenue per available room at Sonoma County hotels was $78.43, a 10 percent increase over 2011, according to Smith Travel Research.
Mr. Fischang and other tourism representatives pointed to findings from a recent San Francisco State University study that found Sonoma County's business improvement area, or BIA, brought in more than $209 million in destination spending through sales and marketing efforts.
Since 2010, overall revenue for the tourism organization has climbed steadily, from just under $4 million in 2010 to nearly $5.3 million projected for 2013. Revenues come from two key sources -- the BIA, which is a 2 percent assessment on hotel rooms, and the county's transient occupancy tax. Nearly 60 percent of revenue comes from the BIA, and the remainder is largely from TOT.
"The industry has rebounded," said David Scott, general manger of the Sheraton Sonoma County hotel in Petaluma, noting that 2008 and 2009 were especially difficult years for the tourism industry. "The numbers are good."
[caption id="attachment_68549" align="alignleft" width="300"] David Rabbitt, chairman of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, says tourism is a $1.34 billion industry in the county. (photo credit: Tina Luster)[/caption]
David Rabbit, chairman of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, applauded the tourism industry in general.
"Tourism and hospitality was the basis and the backbone of our recovery," he said, adding that in industry generates $80 million in taxes collected. "Tourism led the way, and it's one of the largest industries in our county."
It's estimated that some 17,000 people work in the $1.3 billion industry, according to tourism officials. The county draws roughly 7.5 million visitors each year.
The county also saw its share of sales leads increase by 23 percent, leading to a potential economic impact of $21.5 million, according to Sonoma County Tourism. There has been strong growth in weddings, small groups and international markets.
The BIA, in particular, has been strong. According to the San Francisco State study, for every $1 invested in tourism promotion by Sonoma County Tourism, more than $85 was collected -- 35 percent higher than the statewide BIA average of $63 returned for every dollar.
The county's BIA also helped with additional tax revenue, the study found. Per dollar invested in tourism, $1.90 went to county government coffers, versus $1.40 statewide.