Visitors flock to Napa, Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino counties; tourism boosters hustle to enliven the experience
Summer is in full swing, and the region's tourism industry is pushing forward with new initiatives and goals to ensure its continued growth.
Visit Napa Valley's summer season is off to a strong start, according to Smith Travel Research data, which tracks a number of categories, including hotel occupancy and average daily rates (ADR). According to the firm's June data, the most recent available, hotel occupancy was 80.2%, a 4.3% increase from a year ago, when the figure was 76.9%. ADR was $360.47, up 3.1% from June 2018, when the ADR of $349.58. Revenue was $43.5 million, up 6.3% from June 2018.
The tourism bureau currently is involved in Napa Valley Forward, a two-year initiative aimed at reducing traffic, primarily in the congested areas of Highway 29 and Silverado Trail. Visit Napa Valley, along with Napa Valley Vintners, each contributed $125,000 in matching funds to support the first phase of the public-private partnership, which also includes the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Napa Valley Transportation Authority.
Meetings will commence the week of July 29 with tourism-facing hospitality businesses, including hotels and wineries, said Alfredo Pedroza, Napa County Supervisor and commission vice chairman. The MTC voted late last year to approve $1 million in funding for the project.
'The genesis behind this pilot program was acknowledging that when you look at the visitor profile data that Visit Napa Valley tracks, one of them is traffic and that also impacts residents,' Pedroza said, adding that 40% of the county's workforce commutes — in a region that welcomes 3.8 million visitors every year. 'This is the first time MTC is doing a program like this in a rural community, so it's a little on the forefront to use technology to change employees' behavior and shift commuting patterns.'
The project involves collecting data from participating employees in the hospitality industry, and then formulating recommendations to encourage commuters to travel to work in alternative ways, such as carpooling, using private and public transit, or electronic bikes.
'The tourism industry remains the second-largest employer in Napa County, and Visit Napa Valley is proud to support 'Napa Valley Forward' and partner with the (the other participants) to find a traffic solution that benefits both our visitors and residents,' said Linsey Gallagher, president and CEO for Visit Napa Valley.
Meanwhile, Visit Lake County California, which operates the Lake County Tourism Improvement District that was formed last fall, has been busy working on a brand-development campaign, said Michelle Scully, deputy county administrative officer.
The district board in June awarded a contract to Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Cubic Creative to develop the brand, Scully said. Cubic's creative team traveled to Lake County the week of June 10 to tour the region and begin what Scully described as the firm's data-driven process.
'They held four focus groups, flew over the county, boated on Clear Lake and Blue Lake, and met tourism stakeholders from all parts of the county,' Scully said. The focus groups represented a cross-section of people in Lake County's tourism industry, community colleges, city and county government, and hospitality representatives from each community, she said. Each focus group was comprised of approximately 45 people.
Cubic was scheduled to return to Lake County on July 25 to present its preliminary design, and Scully expects the branding to be finalized, presented for approval and ready for launch within the next couple of months.
This past spring, the county received $25,000 in brand funding from Visit California, the nonprofit organization tasked with driving domestic and international visitation to the state. Lake County qualified for the funds based on post-fires need, Scully said, adding that when Visit California CEO Caroline Beteta visited Lake County, she 'was astounded by the pillars of tourism that we have' and instructed the TID board to come up with a comprehensive brand that showcases the county's natural resources, wine region and outdoor activities.
Scully said she provides Visit California with updates and 'will let them know, along with everyone else, when the new branding is to be unveiled.'
Heading south, Sonoma County Tourism has hired the Coraggio Group, a business-management consulting firm out of Portland, Oregon, to help develop a Destination Master Plan for 2020, according to Claudia Vecchio, president and CEO of Sonoma County Tourism. The process will focus on how to best promote the region to business and leisure travelers, both domestically and internationally.