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Research & Reports: Tourism in Sonoma County

Tourism and hospitality are an integral part of the Sonoma County economy.

  • The tourism industry is one of the largest private employers in the country, with leisure and hospitality employment comprising of 25 percent of the county total (Source: Sonoma County Indicators, 2017, Abridged).
  • Government revenue in the form of taxes from tourism is more than $43.7 million per year (Source: Sonoma County Annual Tourism Report, 2018).
  • This revenue is used for things like parks, economic development, cultural and historical festivals and events, affordable housing and other uses.

The Sonoma County Economic Development Board produces an excellent report on Transient Occupancy Tax, including where each government entity invests that money: Sonoma County TOT Reports.

TOT Assessment by City

  • Cloverdale – 10 percent
  • Healdsburg – 12 percent
  • Petaluma – 10 percent
  • Rohnert Park – 12 percent
  • Santa Rosa – 9 percent
  • Sebastopol – 10 percent
  • Sonoma – 10 percent
  • Windsor – 12 percent
  • Unincorporated County – 12 percent

Visitor Statistics

  • Millions of visitors come to Sonoma County annually. Over the next few years, millennial tourists, who prioritize experiential travel, will grow in importance.
  • Roughly 90 percent of Sonoma County's visitors are domestic travelers.
  • The 10 percent of international visitors to Sonoma County mainly hail from Canada, Western Europe, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Korea.

In Sonoma County (2018):

In 2018, total direct travel spending contributed $2.175 billion to the Sonoma County economy, up 4% year-over-year.    

  • Destination Spending = $2 billion 

  • Other travel = $175 million (Other Travel includes ground transportation and air travel impact and other travel arrangement services.  

Visitor Spending by Type of Travel Accommodation totaled $1.999 billion, up 3% year-over-year. Spending by property type ($millions)

  • Hotel, Motel                 $1,098.2 (+3% YOY) 

  • Private Home               $176.3 (+6 % YOY) 

  • Campground                 $61.3 (+4% YOY) 

  • Vacation Home            $108.8 (+4% YOY) 

Visitor Spending by Commodity Purchased ($Millions)

  • Accommodations        $504.3 (+6% YOY)

  • Food Service                 $558.4 (+3% YOY)

  • Local Transportation   $32.1 (+25% YOY); (including gas)
  • Arts, Entertain, Rec.    $351.4 (+.08% YOY)

    ; (including wineries, parks)

  • Visitor Air Transport    $12.5 (+12% YOY)

Day trips visitor spending $554.9 million (+1.7% YOY) 

Travel Industry Employment: 22,330 (down 180 jobs YOY) 

Information from Visit California / Dean Runyan and Associates "California Travel Impacts by County"

Tourism Business Statistics (2018)*

  • 77 percent of Sonoma County tourism businesses are small (fewer than 25 employees) 
  • 85 percent of tourism businesses are locally owned, only two percent of these are franchises
  • 43 percent have been in business for more than 20 years, 35 percent have been in business for 10 or fewer years

*Sonoma County Economic Development Board’s Annual Tourism Report

You can meet some of the "Faces of Sonoma County Tourism" and read their stories: Faces of Tourism.


Want to learn more? Destination Analysts is a research firm that publishes "The State of the American Traveler," an excellent snapshot of domestic travelers.