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Another strong year for Sonoma County tourism

  • Angelito Alonzo, prepares a room at the Inn of the Tides on Thursday in Bodega Bay. (KENT PORTER/Press Democrat)

Camille LeGrand originally opposed the 2 percent levy that financed the creation of the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau more than seven years ago.

“I didn't want any more taxes on my guests,” said LeGrand, owner of Russian River Getaways, which books vacation homes from Santa Rosa to Jenner.

Now LeGrand not only sits on the tourism bureau's board of directors, but she thinks the work made possible by the surcharge on lodging revenues is producing good results for her Guerneville-based business and for the county.

Much of the United States remains in the economic doldrums, LeGrand said, but not local tourism businesses.

“We're ahead of the curve,” she said.

The county's $1.4 billion tourism industry has moved into summer on an upbeat note again this year.

The industry is on track to exceed the travel bureau's forecast of 5 percent growth this year. For the first five months of the year, county hotel room revenue is up nearly 9 percent to $56 million, according to Smith Travel Research.

The county's other tourist businesses also report growth, said Ken Fischang, the tourism bureau's president and CEO.

“We're looking at a pretty strong summer,” he said.

Each year the county attracts about 7 million visitors to view the coastline, walk among redwoods and enjoy tastings at wineries. Visitors come for cycling, agritourism and weddings, as well as for a chance to stroll small town squares and cruise country backroads.

A new report produced by the county Economic Development Board and the Tourism Bureau said the tourism industry is still outpacing the rest of the local economy.

One of the study's contributors noted that tourism businesses found it easier to grow in 2011 because the industry then was rebounding from recession.

“They're going to have to work a little bit harder than they did last year,” said Eduardo Martinez, a senior economist with Moody's Analytics in West Chester, Pa.

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