Visitors traveled to California in record numbers in 2015, and tourism spending in the North Bay grew 4.3 percent.
Tourists spent $5.09 billion in the North Bay last year, up from $4.88 billion in 2014, according to the annual economic impact report released May 2 by Visit California, the state’s official tourism booster. For the six-county region, Sonoma County had the largest amount of travel spending — $1.82 billion — followed by Napa County, with $1.27 billion, according to the 168-page report by Dean Runyan Associates.
Travelers spent more than $33 billion throughout the Bay Area last year. That supported 248,300 jobs for residents and provided $2.8 billion in state and local tax revenue.
Direct travel spending in the state was $122.5 billion in 2015, a 3.4 percent increase over 2014. Visitor travel generated $4.6 billion in local taxes and $5.3 billion in state taxes.
Statewide, tourism supported more than 1 million jobs. Out of California’s 58 counties, 51 saw an increase in tourist spending for the year.
UP 2% IN SONOMA
Sonoma County continues to see a growth in tourism. Spending last year rose 2.3 percent from $1.78 billion in 2014. Total tax revenue was $149 million, up 2 percent from $146 million in 2014.
Tourism supported almost 20,000 jobs, an increase of 400 from 2014.
Sonoma’s success can be attributed to a mixture of continued investment in marketing and sales for the county, as well as the fact that the county has a good balance of visitor attractions — for every luxury lodging there is a good choice of mid-range hotels as well as campgrounds and vacation rentals, said Tim Zahner, chief marketing officer for Sonoma County Tourism. Also, Sonoma isn’t only a wine destination.
“The natural beauty of the coast and the redwoods, agricultural lands and small town experiences contribute to a good visitor experience,” he said. “Sonoma County Tourism marked our 10th anniversary with unified tourism marketing for the whole county, and I think the results are evident. When we work together, we do better — together.”
Interconnected factors will be the opening of new hotels in the coming years, the anticipated start of the SMART commuter train at the end of this year and growth in demand for travel from world travelers.
“Sonoma County will reap the rewards of strategic and continued tourism marketing,” Zahner said.
NAPA VALLEY JUMPS 9%
Napa Valley’s aggressive marketing campaign has also paid off. Traveler spending there has more than doubled since 1998. In 2015, it saw the largest growth in visitor spending, an increase of almost 9 percent over the previous year, and the highest percentage gain of all of California’s 58 counties. Tourists spent $1.27 billion, with a total of $116 million in tax revenue.
With new hotels opening up and down the valley in the next couple of years, additional rooms stand to further tourism’s economic impact.
Visitor spending also supported 13,680 jobs, an increased of 3.7 percent from 2014.
“These figures prove that the travel and tourism industry is an extremely powerful economic driver for the Napa Valley and Visit Napa Valley will continue its efforts to target ‘need periods’ through our marketing and sales efforts, ” said Clay Gregory, president and CEO of Visit Napa Valley.