Sonoma County hotel revenues and occupancy rates were up year to date in May and increased over the previous year as well, according to the latest data from Smith Travel Research.

Hotel occupancy rates in May were up by 13.3 percent in May compared to last year, reaching 77.8 percent compared to 68.7 percent. The average daily room rate increases from $118.72 in 2012 to $127.12 in May of this year, an increase of 7.1 percent.

And revenue per available room, or RevPar, increased over the year by 21.4 percent, going from $81.53 per room in 2012 to $98.94 in May.

Year to date, occupancy rates are up by 11.8 percent compared to last year, from 59.1 percent to 66.1 percent full. Average daily room rates increased by 3.8 percent through the year, reaching $107.05 in 2013 compared to $103.10 in 2012.

RevPar jumped by 16.1 percent, going from $60.97 to $70.79 in 2013.***

[caption id="attachment_75995" align="alignleft" width="160"] Krisztian Karkus[/caption]

The Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa hired Krisztian Karkus as its new executive chef. Mr. Karkus comes to the hotel from one of its sister Meritage Collection properties, The Balboa Bay Resort in Newport Beach.

Chef Karkus, who grew up in Hungary, has worked at resorts throughout the world, from Tokyo to Jamaica.  Most recently he worked as the executive sous chef at The Balboa Bay Resort, where he was responsible for the operation of all three restaurants, banquets and room service, designing menus and cooking for special events.

At The Meritage Resort and Spa Chef Karkus will oversee all hotel food operations, including the signature Siena Restaurant, Crush Ultra Lounge, The Commons: A Wine Bar, Blend Cafe, banquets, room service and all signature events at The Meritage Resort.  

The Meritage also said it just opened a new deck in its hillside vineyards for weddings and wine receptions. The vineyard deck helps to compliment the resort’s other wedding and event venues, including the two largest ballrooms in the Napa Valley, the Estate Cave, Our Lady of the Grapes Chapel, three four-season covered terraces and its event piazza.

The roughly 1,900-square-foot vineyard deck can host events of up to 200 and also includes space under the gazebo and a 1,300-square-foot pre-function area. The deck will be accessed via the stairs near the entrance to the Estate Cave. An access road has also been improved to allow for handicap access and event deliveries***

Four North Bay restaurants -- two in Sonoma County, one in Napa and one in Marin -- were named winners of OpenTable Diner's Choice Awards for being a top outdoor restaurant in the U.S.

The winners are: Cork's Restaurant at Russian River Vineyards in Forestville; Rustic, Francis's Favorites in Geyserville; Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford; and L'Appart Resto in San Anselmo.

The four restaurants are among 100 total winners derived from more than 5 million reviews submitted by OpenTable diners for more than 15,000 restaurants in all U.S. stated and the District of Columbia.

Awards were based on feedback collected between May 1, 2012, and April 30, 2013.***

The city of Fairfield generated $583 million in tourism-related spending last year, resulting in $36.8 million in state and local tax revenue while employing nearly 7,000 people in Solano County, according to a study by the Fairfield Conference & Visitors Bureau.

The city also collected more than $1.7 million in transient occupancy tax in 2012, according to the bureau, the destination marketing organization.The tourism bureau was created by a business improvement district to market and promote tourism to the area, including overnight stays. The independent nonprofit 501(c)6 organization is funded by 18 lodging properties in Fairfield.

“Attractions that set us apart from other destinations include Suisun Valley wineries and the Western Railway Museum, Jelly Belly and Anheuser-Busch brewery tours, plus wildlife viewing and nature hikes at Grizzly Island Wildlife Area and Solano Land Trust open spaces. It’s also a time to recognize what tourism means for us in terms of jobs and much needed revenues for local businesses," said Anand Patel, bureau president and chief executive officer.***

Nearly 300 hospitality businesses in Sonoma County were awarded certificates of excellence by TripAdvisor, a distinction that only 10 percent of all businesses ranked by the travel website receive.

The award is given to hospitality businesses that "consistently achieve outstanding traveler reviews" on the website, according to Sonoma County Tourism. In Sonoma County, 77 lodging establishments, 78 attractions, including wineries and 139 eateries received the distinction.•••

Send items for this column to Dan Verel at dan.verel@busjrnl.com or call 707-521-4257.