Sonoma, Napa visitor spending hits all-time high in 2016

The Graton Resort & Casino's six-story luxury hotel in Rohnert Park on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016. (Christopher Chung / The Press Democrat)


Visitor spending in the North Bay has hit record highs and shows no signs of slowing down.

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.

Napa Valley’s aggressive marketing campaign has 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.

While that’s good news for the economy, however, employers are struggling to fill jobs in that industry.

Leisure and hospitality employment as of August had grown by nearly 3,000 jobs in all six counties over 12 months, up 3.9 percent, according to the monthly report from the Employment Development Department.

Of the almost 17,000 jobs added in the North Bay across all industries over the year more than 1 in 6 jobs were in leisure and hospitality.

Sonoma County, gained 900 jobs in that industry, while Napa County’s tourism-fueled economy added 1,300 hospitality jobs over the last 12 months.

Calistoga is especially feeling the pinch. The town’s estimated unemployment rate hovers around 1.6 percent, and close to 60 percent of the workforce commutes. And in the next three or four years, two large luxury resorts will be completed creating as many as 500 new jobs there.

As hotel occupancy continues to rise, a variety of new hotels are scheduled to open their doors in the next couple of years.

In Sonoma County, those range from a second eco-friendly hotel in Healdsburg, another Holiday Inn location in Windsor and the much-anticipated hotel at Graton Resort & Casino which opened in November. The six-story, 200 room hotel also added 20,000 square feet of convention space and a resort-like pool to the casino.

Within the next two years, three new hotels are set to open in Napa County, adding more than 350 rooms and generating significant tourism revenue. In downtown Napa the 183-room Archer Hotel is scheduled to open in late spring 2017.