Sonoma County, February 16, 2021 – During a year of unprecedented events, Sonoma County Tourism (SCT) conducted an integrated campaign, couched in safety and run only when health ordinances allowed, that promoted the destination to travelers looking for an escape. Running from late June through November, the campaign focused primarily on drive markets within 300 miles from Sonoma County. SCT’s efforts showcased Sonoma County’s outdoor activities, beverage and culinary experiences, and many local small businesses, for whom tourism is a critical source of revenue. The campaign took advantage of the prolonged “dreaming stage” in which travelers were open to receiving inspiration. When allowable, this resulted in trips to the destination.

SCT recognized early-on the importance of safety to both visitors and locals alike. Prior to the campaign launch, SCT worked with partners throughout the destination to create the “Safe Travels Promise” which encourages visitors to ‘Be Smart. Be Safe. Be Kind. Be Healthy.’ The organization even leveraged several local business owners to bring the Safe Travels Promise to life via a video shot at locations throughout Sonoma County.

When leisure travel was green-lighted to re-open on June 19, SCT rolled out the integrated campaign under their brand umbrella “Life Opens Up. ” The brand  resonated with pandemic-weary visitors looking for wide-open spaces, fresh air, and the “opened up” experiences found only in Sonoma County. A two-week “burst” of activities, including promotions, giveaways and public relations, kicked off the campaign, working to generate excitement and buzz.

New Products Launched

SCT debuted a couple of new products over the course of the campaign. Because of the drive market targeting, SCT created a “Life Opens Up on the RoadTRIPS” guide, which serves up 18 different inspirational itineraries, each with their own focus. In addition, SCT created the Sonoma County Tasting Pass, featuring award-winning wineries, renowned craft breweries and cideries, and unique micro distilleries. Offered in 1, 3, and 90-day pass options, with accompanying price points, the pass is a delicious way of showcasing the vast diversity of Sonoma County’s craft beverage community.

SCT also partnered with Threshold 360 to capture over 755 virtual tours for local tourism and hospitality businesses across the region. Meeting planners and visitors are now able to virtually step inside many of Sonoma County’s wineries, restaurants, accommodations, historic sites, attractions, outdoor activities, and more. The interactive virtual tours are excellent tools to help plan a Sonoma County vacation or meeting and can be found on business listing pages on SCT’s website, sonomacounty.com.

Campaign Results

  • Visits to SCT’s website increased about 3.5% from the same period in 2019, including nearly 100K pageviews of the campaign-specific landing page.
  • Through a brand-new partnership with NBC Bay Area, SCT’s first-ever broadcast TV spot was developed, welcoming travelers to the destination.
  • SCT also worked with NBC to develop two different Sonoma County segments on the California Live lifestyle TV show, which aired in the Bay Area, LA, and San Diego markets.
  • In partnership with Visit California and Expedia, SCT promoted the destination via a program that resulted in 8,300 direct hotel room bookings between August 15-November 15.
  • SCT engaged with journalists and influencers, resulting in coverage in 108 outlets and a PR value of $1.7M, with a 433M potential audience.
  • SCT also hosted six journalists from the Bay Area and one from Los Angeles to inspire safe visitation to Sonoma County. This resulted in seven articles and over 60 nationally syndicated articles​ generating more than 8.7M impressions. 

“Following the March shutdown, we were trepidatious that guests wouldn’t return when we re-opened in June,” said Robert Conard, Director of Hospitality & Retail Sales at Dry Creek Vineyard. “We made a great effort to transition our wine tastings from our tasting room to seated experiences on our lawn by appointment with picnic tables spaced 10 to 15 feet apart. Having trained our team in new social distancing and increased sanitation protocols, we were concerned that we may just be standing around looking at empty tables. The SCT campaign helped get us back up to speed and pushed substantial weekend tourism from the greater Bay Area to our front door. By August we were only limited by the amount of space that we had to safely host guests. We grew our front of house hospitality team from 3 to 7 employees by the end of November.”

“The SCT team continually created outstanding partnerships and creative campaigns that were incredibly beneficial during this challenging time”, said Sonia Byck-Barwick, Co-Owner of Paradise Ridge Winery. “The programs SCT initiated helped promote our small family business, and in doing so, helps us keep our doors open.”     

As one of the largest industries in Sonoma County, tourism is a critical element of the destination’s economy. The effects of the pandemic have greatly impacted travel and tourism worldwide, and Sonoma County is no different. The challenges of multiple stay at home orders, coupled with the constant back-and-forth of restrictions, while important to help control COVID-19, have had devastating impacts on the many small businesses who rely on tourism to survive.

“Tourism in Sonoma County is shaped by the experiences of our extraordinary family-owned businesses and creative makers,” said Claudia Vecchio, CEO, Sonoma County Tourism. “Continuing to keep Sonoma County top of mind through virtual interactions with local businesses created important demand for the destination.  Once visitors are able to travel, we expect this interest in small and unique businesses and experiences to continue into full recovery.”

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 About Sonoma County
Sonoma County Tourism is the official destination stewardship organization for California’s Sonoma County. Tourism generates nearly $2.3 billion annually for the local economy resulting in $200 million in tax revenue and supports almost 23,000 jobs. SCT is a private, non-profit marketing and sales organization dedicated to sustaining the hospitality economy in Sonoma County, California. 

Sonoma County Tourism offices are located at 400 Aviation Blvd., Ste. 500, Santa Rosa, Calif. 95403. For more information, call 707-522-5800 or 800-576-6662, or visit www.sonomacounty.com

 Birgitt Vaughan 
Director of Global Media Relations 
Sonoma County Tourism 
707-522-5826 
[email protected]  

 Anna Yan
Public Relations Manager
Sonoma County Tourism
707-522-5818
[email protected]