Napa Valley tourism continues to be a major economic driver for the county, and to make sure it stays that way, the organization that markets that industry is shifting its focus.

Napa Valley saw an increase of 20 percent in international visitors over the past year, compared with almost 14 percent in 2014, as reported by Visit Napa Valley at the tourism booster’s Annual Sales & Marketing Conference Aug. 10, at the Silverado Resort and Spa.

And statistics show that overseas visitors spend more time and dollars in hotels, versus day-trippers.

Because of that, both Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of San Francisco Travel and Visit Napa Valley president and CEO Clay Gregory said that emphasis on marketing to international travelers is more important now than ever.

Visitors from China accounted for 5 percent of international visitors last year, and that is where both organizations are devoting extra effort.

The two tourism boosters have intensified their relationship, and Napa Valley has been included in San Francisco Travel’s bilingual digital marketing to China, Germany, and other overseas countries.

“That they are looking at new markets, and how to tell a story of Napa that’s a wine lifestyle, not just wineries, that’s smart. I would applaud them. This gives them the opportunity to continue to be successful,” said William Silver, dean of the School of Business and Economics at Sonoma State University.

Visit Napa Valley reported revenue from hotel stays last year totaled $425 million, up from $375 in 2014.

That resulted in a total of $47.4 million in transient occupancy tax (TOT) collected in 2016.

In total, taxes from tourism generated $80.4 million for government entities, up 25 percent from 2014.

San Francisco takes in $600 million in taxes from tourist spending, the largest in the state.

D’Alessandro cautioned, however, that despite double-digit growth over the past seven years in tourism in San Francisco, which largely feeds the Napa Valley, that kind of continual uptick is not likely to be sustainable.

“San Francisco is a hot brand globally, but it’s hard to stay in that leadership position. People want to do the next best thing that comes along,” Silver said, and depending on a monolithic economic sector, like tourism, an economy could get into trouble after a while with concentration in one area.

Visit Napa Valley is very in touch with who travels to the region. It regularly conducts extensive surveys of visitors to the area, and pays close attention to what respondents say.

One of the things they said could improve their experience in Napa was more shopping opportunities.

Napa responded with the 40,000-square foot Oxbow Marketplace, and the 45 shops and restaurants that will occupy space at the Archer Hotel when it is completed later this year.

“Napa is looking at what else it has to offer and building more capacity for experiential opportunity,” Silver said. “’What else do we have to offer?’ We’re in a beautiful area with music, culture, spas, so there is a lot to offer without going to the wineries. That portfolio of activities will serve them well.”

Calistoga hosted a number of record-breaking events in 2016, including the annual lighted tractor parade, which drew 15,000 people, up from 11,000 in 2014, reported Chris Canning, mayor and executive director of the chamber of commerce of Calistoga.

This year, Calistoga’s annual Harvest Table, which shuts down the main street for a block long dinner table, sold out of its 800 tickets 39 minutes after going on sale.

The number one negative aspect about Napa Valley—according to 11 percent of write-in survey respondents—was traffic.

Visit Napa Valley recognizes that the industry adds to the snarling, bumper-to-bumper traffic, Gregory said. The organization is looking to work with the community to solve the issue, and has instigated an outreach program called Tourism Matters.

The idea is to educate local government entities and the community about the tourism booster’s efforts, and promote the idea that the tourism industry benefits everyone economically, and from a lifestyle standpoint.

“Without tourism, we wouldn’t have great restaurants and entertainment venues. It benefits the community with more jobs, and jobs in hospitality in Napa are higher, by 15 percent than elsewhere in the state,” Gregory said.

The tourism industry supports more than 13,000 jobs in Napa Valley, with a $387 million payroll.

Cynthia Sweeney covers health care, hospitality, residential real estate, education, employment and business insurance. Reach her at Cynthia.Sweeney@busjrnl.com or call 707-521-4259.