Sonoma County hotel revenue jumps 75 percent from 2010

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Sonoma County hotel revenues rose 75 percent in the past five years, further evidence that Wine Country tourism has made a strong rebound since the recession.

The county’s hotel sector last year alone saw revenues climb 9.5 percent, to $255 million, the national travel research company STR Inc. reported Friday. The county’s 2015 growth rate was about the same as Monterey County, at 9.1 percent, but less than Napa County, at 14.6 percent.

“Business is good,” said Ken Fischang, CEO of Sonoma County Tourism.

In 2010, hotel revenues here amounted to $146 million, according to the Hendersonville, Tenn.-based, STR, which gathers data on more than 50,000 hotels in 160 countries. In the subsequent five years, those revenues climbed 75 percent.

In Napa County, hotel revenues over the past five years grew at essentially the same pace, 74 percent, to $359 million. For the same period, they rose 47 percent in Monterey, to $572 million.

Tourism was among the first industries in the county to bounce back after the recession, which officially lasted from December 2007 to June 2009. The sector has continued to be a growth engine, with overall travel spending estimated at about $1.6 billion a year.

“It’s a mainstay of our economy and a mainstay of our employment base,” said Ben Stone, executive director of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board. More than one in 10 county jobs are in the leisure and hospitality sector.

Prior to the recession, the county’s hotel revenues peaked at $168 million in 2007. That year the average daily room rate was $126 a night.

Last year, the average room rate rose 7.3 percent over 2014, to $149.93. That compares with $109.15 in 2010.

Both Napa and Monterey last year had considerably higher average room rates: $290.79 for Napa and $188.53 for Monterey.

The county’s average occupancy rate for 2015 was 76 percent. That compares with 72 percent for Napa and 70 percent for Monterey.

The STR monthly survey includes data on more than 6,000 hotel rooms in Sonoma County.

Sonoma leaders note that the increase in revenues came with few new hotel rooms added. They credit a series of collaborative efforts to spread the word about the value of visiting the county, touting its natural features, its wine industry and more recently, its offerings of artisan foods and craft beer.

“I think our marketing efforts have been very influential in having travelers discover Sonoma County and come to Sonoma County,” said Tim McGregor, general manager of the Bodega Bay Lodge and a board member for Sonoma County Tourism.

Among the collaborative efforts, Fischang noted that since 2011, the public-private partnership Brand USA has established offices in nearly a dozen countries to encourage international travel. Meanwhile, Visit California last year doubled its budget to $100 million.

And the county tourism agency has teamed up with groups representing local vintners and grape growers. Together, their representatives traveled last year to Boston, Chicago and Washington to share the story of the county and its wines.

Looking ahead, McGregor said he expected less robust growth in the travel sector.

“I don’t think we’ll be on the 75 percent path for the next five years,” he said.

Headwinds include a strong dollar, which makes it more expensive for international visitors to come to the U.S., and concerns that plunging oil prices may lead to a slowdown in the world’s economies.

“I think people are just generally cautious,” he said, which can cause them to be careful about travel spending.

You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 521-5285 or On Twitter @rdigit.

EDITORS NOTE: This story has been updated to correct the 2016 hotel revenue growth rates for Napa and Monterey counties.

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