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In 2018, the Napa Valley welcomed 3.85 million visitors, who spent $2.23 billion and provided $85.1 million in taxes to local government. 

Anyone who’s visited the Oxbow Public Market on a weekend or downtown Napa on a Friday night can attest to the number of tourists making Napa a destination.

The statistics back it up.

In 2018, the Napa Valley welcomed 3.85 million visitors who spent $2.23 billion, said a new report from Visit Napa Valley. To compare, the 2016 report said visitors spent $1.9 billion in Napa Valley. 

On Friday, Visit Napa Valley released the 2018 Napa Valley Visitor Industry Economic Impact and Visitor Profile reports, with results of a yearlong research study conducted by Destination Analysts. 

According to Visit Napa Valley, nearly 70 percent of the $2.23 billion is generated from overnight hotel guests, who spent an average of $446 in Napa County per guest, per day.

The $2.23 billion spent in 2018 represents $85.1 million in tax benefit to residents, said the report. Taxes generated by the visitor industry include revenues from the transient occupancy tax (TOT), sales taxes and property and transfer taxes paid on lodging facilities.

The tourism industry remains the second largest employer in Napa County (after the wine industry), supporting the livelihood of an estimated 15,872 people in the community, with a combined payroll of $492 million, said the report.

“The tourism industry continues to provide a significant positive impact to Napa Valley’s economy, while also supporting local initiatives essential to the well-being of our community,” said Linsey Gallagher, the new president and CEO for Visit Napa Valley.

“As residents, we sometimes overlook the ancillary benefits that visitor spending achieves. Napa Valley’s healthy and vibrant tourism industry contributes to the quality of life that we are so fortunate to enjoy. We live and work in one of the most desirable destinations in the world.”

Direct visitor spending within Napa County increased 15.4 percent since 2016, outpacing visitor growth of 8.9 percent in the same time period, said the report.

“Our goal is to maintain and increase travel and spending in the Napa Valley during non‐peak time periods, including November through April (Cabernet Season) and midweek, Sunday through Thursday nights,” said Gallagher.

The city of Napa generated more than $21.6 million in TOT in 2018 followed by $6.9 million in Yountville, $3 million in St. Helena, $6.2 million in Calistoga and more than $1.5 million in American Canyon.

“Revenue from tourism allows local government to invest in services and programs that benefit all residents, including infrastructure improvements, civic amenities and public safety,” said Gallagher.

“Additionally, tourism creates demand for a diverse range of goods, services, and cultural programs that are available for both residents and visitors to enjoy,” she said.

In 2018, Visit Napa Valley “rallied the support of the hospitality industry and other leaders” to pass a voter supported 1 percent increase in TOT for a special fund dedicated to workforce housing in five out of six jurisdictions. Approximately $5 million will be collected annually to promote future housing development for residents, said Visit Napa Valley. 

Napa Valley’s second largest industry

In 2018, tourism put an estimated 15,872 people to work in the community providing a combined payroll of $492 million to support their families, reported the data.

This represents an employment increase of 18.1 percent from 2016 and a 27.2 percent increase in combined payroll in 2016.

Not surprisingly, the majority of hospitality jobs are related to either restaurants or hotels. Since the last survey in 2016, three hotels - Las Alcobas, Vista Collina and Archer Hotel Napa - opened, along with four smaller inns with 10 rooms or less.

Overnight guests versus 'day trippers'

More than one-third, or 35.5 percent, of visitors in 2018 stayed overnight in the Napa Valley, while the remaining 64.5 percent were on day trips.

In total, 80.7 percent of overnight visitors stayed in a hotel within Napa Valley and 12.4 percent stayed in a private residence.

Compared to the 2016 study, overnight visitation grew 13.7 percent in 2018 with day trip visitation growing 5.3 percent, “supporting Visit Napa Valley’s mission to inspire visitors to extend their stay by experiencing the valley’s more than 125 hotels, motels, and inns,” said the release.

Hotel guests in 2018 were responsible for $1.55 billion in direct visitor spending, or an average of $446 per person, per day, compared to an average of $170 per person, per day spent by day-trippers. This represents a 15.4 percent increase in spending from 2016.

The largest proportion of day trip visitors originated their trip from San Francisco, followed by Vallejo-Fairfield, San Jose, Santa Rosa and Sacramento.

How much visitors spend

The largest component of visitor spending in 2018 was on retail, which accounted for 40 percent of all spending, or $746 million, reported Visit Napa Valley.

The second and third largest components of Napa Valley visitor spending included restaurants at $479 million and lodging at $476 million. Group meetings, weddings, and social events generated $267 million in direct spending in Napa Valley.

How often they come back

The Napa Valley draws a substantial amount of repeat visitation, with the average visitor in 2018 making 3.6 trips to the Napa Valley in the past twelve months (compared with 2.9 trips in 2016). In total, 88.1 percent of respondents said that they were very likely or likely to return to the Napa Valley.

Why they visit

Visitors stated the primary reason for visiting the Napa Valley was for a getaway or vacation, representing 71.8 percent of all visitors. Wedding or special events represented 11.3 percent of visitors and a conference or business travel represented 5.8 percent of visitors.

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.