Sonoma County visitor spending rises 9%

SONOMA COUNTY -- Visitors to Sonoma County spent $1.47 billion in 2011, a more than 9 percent increase over 2010, according to the latest figures released by Visit California.

"This is great news for Sonoma County’s thriving hospitality industry," Ken Fischang, president and chief executive officer of Sonoma County Tourism, said in a statement, adding that hotel occupancy rates have steadily improved.

Year to date, hotal occupancy is up 11.4 percent over 2012, according to Sonoma County Tourism.

Visit California, the state's official tourism booster, also found that visitor-generated taxes equaled $168 per household in Sonoma County, while tourism-related employment accounted for nearly 17,000 jobs in Sonoma County -- or nearly one in every 10 jobs.

Hospitality industry revenue also increased 4.9 percent from 2010 to 2011. From 2001 through 2011, industry revenue from tourism soared 41.5 percent.

"Nearly 10 percent of our local jobs come from the hospitality sector, so this increase in revenues bodes well for more jobs and income here in Sonoma County," Ben Stone, director of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board, said in a statement.

The increase in visitors also means an increase in local government revenue. Spending by visitors to Sonoma County accounts for 19 percent of local tax revenue, according to Mr. Stone. The county collects nearly 17 percent more tax revenue from visitors than the statewide average.

The county has a 10 percent transient occupancy tax (TOT) that goes toward the general budget, along with a 2 percent assessment for the county business improvement area, or BIA, that specifically goes toward tourism efforts.

"Sonoma County has long been an attractive destination for visitors,” said Tim McGregor, board chairman of Sonoma County Tourism and general manager of Bodega Bay Lodge. "We certainly are anticipating that the county will continue the upward trend in TOT revenues that we have enjoyed over the past few years."


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