America's Cup proves to be big lift for Napa tourism

NAPA -- Lodging and tourism spending in the Napa Valley showed significant gains in 2013, bolstered in part by strong branding and a positive economic impact from the recent America's Cup in San Francisco, tourism officials said.

Visit Napa Valley, the county's official tourism arm, in 2011 nabbed the title as the official wine region of the America's Cup, which became a strong marketing tool to reach high-end consumers and possibly lure them to the Napa Valley. Tourism officials sought to quantify the results of its effort with the sailing race, said Clay Gregory, chief executive officer of Visit Napa Valley.

Between July and September of this year, the lodging industry in Napa Valley benefited with increased revenues of approximately $6 million, Mr. Gregory said. That, in turn, resulted in direct economic benefit to the county of between $25 million and $27 million on consumer spending.

"I think it's pretty robust in how well it benefited the valley," he said of America's Cup. "We got into it because we believed it was a great branding relationship for us. It's a high-end demographic that follows it and it's a perfect pairing for us."

Even without America's Cup, lodging has seen positive  gains over the year, according to data from Smith Travel Research.

In October, total hotel revenues were up by 9.4 percent over the year. Average daily room rates reaches $317, up 7.8 percent over the year, while for the 12 months ended in October, ADR was $259, an increase of 7.5 percent.

Revenue per available room for the month of October was $253 dollars, up 9.9 percent over the same period last year. RevPar for the 12 months ended in October $174, an increase of 10.3 percent over the previous period.

For the 12 months ended in October, total lodging revenues were up by about 12 percent."That's phenomenal given that October is always one of our busiest months," Mr. Gregory said. "Our forecast was 4.5 percent."

[caption id="attachment_84845" align="alignleft" width="300"] Another big Napa Valley tourism draw was Flavor Napa Valley in November, an event that drew leading culinary figures from across the continent.[/caption]

While the benefit of the America's Cup race is debated in its host city of San Francisco, Mr. Gregory said it proved to be a hugely successful branding initiative for the Napa Valley. Taxpayers in San Francisco are still on the hook for $5.5 million for the race, although the economic benefit to the city has been pegged at $364 million, having drawn some 700,000 people to the city, according to the Bay Area Economic Institute.

Visit Napa Valley hosted more than 10,000 VIP guest in 2013 at its wine lounge on the San Francisco waterfront during the races, including other corporate sponsors, Mr. Gregory said.

In total, marketing efforts through print, online, social media and broadcast outlets reached over 6 million ad impressions for Visit Napa Valley. More than 2 million people attended events held in Newport, R.I. San Diego and San Francisco that were related to the America's Cup by Visit Napa Valley, Mr. Gregory said.

Visit Napa Valley also did 19 national advertisements in 2013, and 12 in 2012, all 30-second spots on NBC, totaling 18 million total views.' "Which is pretty impressive," Mr. Gregory said. "It's the first time we did any national ads."

"It's very good exposure," for Napa Valley as a wine region, he said.

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