A new year ... looking back, reaching forward
The start of a new year provides a chance to look back at the accomplishments of the previous year and forward to the potential of a new one.

There is no question, 2018 was a year of change and challenge for Sonoma County Tourism and our countywide partners. First, in the wake of the October 2017 fires, SCT worked all year to bring travelers back, to create the economic benefits that come from welcoming visitors to our lodging properties, tasting rooms, attractions, and tourism-facing businesses.

Second, in the successful conclusion of an effort that began prior to the fires, SCT launched a new brand in August, followed by a media buy that started this month. The new brand creates an emotional and compelling connection with visitors through the tagline, Sonoma County: Life Opens Up. 

Third, this was a year to solidify the organization’s operations. This isn’t one of the exciting external sales and marketing programs so important to our collective success, but it was imperative that we looked at our policies and procedures, doubled down on our commitment to be transparent and accountable, and integrated a focused and efficient operational structure.

All programming was tracked through the strategic plan and every SCT team was dedicated to accomplishing the metrics outlined in this plan. Our key priorities continue to be to work with countywide partners to rebuild; review every internal program; and reenergize the SCT team and coordinate with all of you to revitalize our community. I hope we’re on our way to achieving these goals. 

We weren’t perfect. Communications with some of you show that we didn’t meet all expectations. We own that, and promise all of you that we’ll do better. We commit to exceeding your expectations and ensuring SCT is a partner you welcome and embrace.

Now to 2019. This is going to be a challenging year for the tourism industry. We’re facing global political and economic impacts that will surely find their way to Sonoma County. 

We’re seeing a drop in consumer confidence that will affect how people spend their discretionary income. And if the “new normal” is in fact the case as far as wildfires in California, we will continue to face challenges during the autumn with travelers hesitant to visit this area. At the same time, we’re seeing an evolving interest in wine and wine destinations among the emerging millennial traveler.

With all these potential impacts, this will be a year in which SCT will need to be smarter and more focused than ever. This is exactly what you’ll see in our budget and the FY19-20 strategic plan that will come as a result of the budget. 

Our vision is unchanged: A robust economy for Sonoma County businesses and residents amplified by results-driven tourism planning and marketing. We cannot do this without your help and your partnership. We are undeniably stronger together.

Throughout this coming year you will see a thoughtful and dynamic sales and marketing program designed to elevate awareness of Sonoma County as a destination celebrating an almost embarrassment of riches within our natural, cultural, and historic resources, as well as our lodging properties, restaurants, attractions, and retailers with their stellar offerings that are unmatched in any other destination.

We have the extraordinary opportunity to showcase all these incredible experiences by conveying how each helps “Life Open Up.”

Please take a moment to follow us on Facebook and Instagram, or take time to visit at our partner pages on SonomaCounty.com. As always, your input is welcomed. Don’t hesitate to let me know how we can better serve your needs. Shoot me an email at cvecchio@sonomacounty.com or call me at 707-522-5804 with your ideas, questions or concerns. 

Here’s to a new year filled with great happiness, remarkable successes, and well-earned prosperity.

- Claudia

Claudia Vecchio, president/chief executive officer
Sonoma County Tourism
Video highlights 'The Artisans of Sonoma County'
Sonoma County's 'Life Opens Up' brand is showcased in a just-released MatadorNetwork video, produced in partnership with Sonoma County Tourism. In the video, Matador host Kati visits with Randy Johnson of Getaway Adventures, Geo Martorana of Martorana Family Winery, Chris Benziger of Benziger Family Winery, and Kyle and Katina Connaughton of SingleThread Farms Restaurant & Inn. With more than nine million monthly uniques and millions of social followers, MatadorNetwork.com and its social channels are the number one digital destination for affluent millennial travelers and adventurers.
Learn about FareHarbor software on Jan. 29
If you're interested in making your experiences bookable via online software, learn about FareHarbor , the leading online booking and management software for the tourism and travel industries, at SCT's partner education presentations on Tuesday, Jan. 29.  There will be two separate sessions, in the morning at SCT’s main offices in Santa Rosa, and in the afternoon at Ramekins Culinary School, Events & Inn in Sonoma.

Each session includes a brief introduction of the Tourism Development Division (also known as Travel Trade), followed by a full-length presentation by representatives of FareHarbor, with time for questions at the end. There is no cost to attend, but registration is recommended as the sessions may fill up fast.

Advertising opportunities
Join SCT's co-op ad in
2019-2020 CA Road Trips

Ad space is available on Sonoma County Tourism's co-op page in Visit California's 2019-2020 California Road Trips publication. Total circulation is 1 million, with 600,000 inserted in selected copies of the summer issue of Travel + Leisure magazine and 400,000 distributed direct to consumers at key destinations beginning in mid June. The co-op ad is available to businesses within the Sonoma County business improvement area. Learn more.
Reach out to Alaska Airlines travelers in March issue
Alaska Airlines is featuring Sonoma County in its March California Travel Planner issue this year, and display and co-op ads are available. This is a great opportunity to promote your business to more than 3.8 million passengers on the largest airline that flies to Sonoma County.  The reservation deadline is Jan. 25.
Visit CA adds '50 Amazing Road Trips' bookazine

New in 2019, Visit California  is publishing 50 Amazing Road Trips bookazine. Unlike the California Visitors Guide   and California Road Trips ,  it will be newsstand only and will have a circulation of 200,000. It will receive premium visibility at leading retailers throughout the country, plus the Bookazine will be at the U.S. Travel Association's IPW in June. The digital version will appear on the  Visit California  website (with a link to advertiser's website). Learn more.
SCT News
Another successful partnership
At the end of this month the California Consortium for Independent Study (CCIS) brings its annual meeting to Sonoma County for the third year in a row, and plans to hold the event here next year as well — making it a great example of how Sonoma County Tourism and its partners can work well together.

At a one-on-one trade show appointment in 2016, Nancy Garvey, SCT national sales manager, met with Lisa Williams, a meeting planner with the HelmsBriscoe company. Lisa mentioned that her client, Roxanne with CCIS, was looking for a great destination to host its annual meeting in 2017. After the show, SCT, Doubletree by Hilton Sonoma Wine Country, and Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country worked together to convince Roxanne and Lisa that Sonoma County was the perfect destination for CCIS. In March 2016 Lisa and Roxanne came for two days of site visits.

As a result, CCIS held its annual meeting at the Doubletree in 2017 and 2018, will be holding it at the Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country this year, and plan to hold it at the Doubletree in 2020. Let's give a big Sonoma County welcome to the 2019 CCIS Annual Meeting, Jan. 30 to Feb. 1.
Reaching out to association executives
A team from Sonoma County Tourism and its partners touted the delights and benefits of visiting our region in a booth at the CalSAE Seasonal Spectacular trade show Dec. 12-13 in Sacramento. One of the premier events of the California Society of Association Executive, the Seasonal Spectacular is the largest annual association industry trade show on the West Coast.

At left, Jim Anderson, president and CEO of CalSAE, poses for a lighthearted photo with "Sonoma Celebrity Chef" Crista Luedtke of Boon Hotel + Spa and an SCT board member.

Below, from left, the Sonoma County team of "chefs" include Debbie Dobley, Hotel E!; Aubrey Horne, Oxford Suites;
Liat Pardini, Holiday Inn Express Windsor; Ashley Barndt, Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa; Crista Luedtke, Boon Hotel + Spa; Lauren Beauchamp, Sheraton Sonoma County Petaluma; Leah Banchero, Doubletree by Hilton Sonoma Wine Country; Megan Destruel, Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country; Jennifer Good, Benziger; Nancy Garvey, SCT; and Erika Costa, SCT.
Sonoma County and the Media
Sonoma County in the news ...
Sonoma County Tourism's work with the media is ongoing, getting the word out about our destination. Here's a sampling of some of the recent stories promoting Sonoma County.
By the Budget Travel Editors
Budget Travel (UMV: 1,466,698)
Maya Stanton of Budget Travel attended the SCT Brand Launch reception in New York City in October 2018, and as a result Journeyman Meat Co. made this list. The California Cheese Trail is also listed.
By Team Fathom
Fathom (UMV: 617,032)
Editorial director Jeralyn was “completely taken by” the SCT Brand Launch team in New York City in October, and as a result published a link to the Sonoma Love Box Farm Trails Edition holiday gift box that features Sonoma County bounty.
By Allen Pierleoni
The Mercury News (UMV: 8,943,521)
As a result of SCT’s media outreach, this article highlights Bodega Bay lodging, eateries, and the UC Davis marine lab, as well as stops in Petaluma and Valley Ford.
By Matthew Meltzer
Matador Network (UMV: 3,813,849)
Dedicated pitching efforts by SCT staff resulted in Sonoma County making the list as “the best wine region in California.”
What's New in Sonoma County? Journalists want to know

SCT sends out a monthly press release to thousands of journalists each month that announces what's new in the region. The individual announcements are also posted online at www.sonomacounty.com/whats-new. I f you have something new happening at your business, please submit that information. And feel free to share What's New items on your own social media or with potential visitors and clients.
Research
Occupancy and average daily rate (ADR) year-to-date were up in November 2018 compared to 2017 because reporting hotels in Sonoma County had several strong months in 2018 that boosted the year-to-date statistics. However, a month-to-month comparison of November 2018 and November 2017 shows that occupancy was actually down 20.9 percent and ADR dropped 0.7 percent in 2018 compared to 2017, because in November 2017 many fire evacuees and “second” responders (insurance teams, construction workers, and utility employees) were staying in hotels, and in November 2018 smoke from other wildfires meant visitation dropped. Even though the month-to-month drop was dramatic, it shows a return to pre-2017 levels. For Tourism Update, Sonoma County Tourism tracks the year-to-date statistics. Please see our statistics page for regularly updated information: www.sonomacounty.com/statistics .
Industry news
National Plan For Vacation Day: Jan. 29, 2019
Last year more than 705 million vacation days went unused nationwide. Research shows that individuals who plan are more likely to use all of their time off, take more vacation days at once, and report greater levels of happiness at work and at home. The U.S. Travel Association provides a National Plan For Vacation Day Toolkit to help you engage with your audience and spread the word.
Government shutdown’s toll on travel mounts
There’s no telling when this shutdown will end ... so the travel industry may need to prepare for a long-term impact .
 
Venice adding entrance fees for day-trippers in historic city center
Italy’s 2019 budget law lets the local government in Venice charge day-trippers for access to the city’s historic center as a way to help defray the considerable costs of maintaining a popular  tourist destination  built on water. (Overnight visitors already pay a hotel tax.) The City Council will set the amount and collection method.
 
Study looks at motivation for family vacations with young children
Families with young children have rather different motivations for going on holiday than families with older children, according to the findings of a study by the School of Hotel and Tourism Management (at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Tourism promoters should take the specific needs of this group into account to better cater to them.
 
Hotels embracing homesharing: Now what?
What traditional hotel companies once dismissed or derided, some are now welcoming with open arms. But not all hotels are finding it easy to embrace homesharing, or incorporate it into their business plans.
 
Travel apps shared user information with Facebook
Travel apps such as Kayak, TripAdvisor, Skyscanner, and Yelp shared extensive user information from their Android apps with Facebook regardless whether or not consumers were Facebook members or were logged off from their accounts, according to a new report from London-based Privacy International.
 
Cutting its hours paid off for this bakery
Sometimes, success simply isn’t enough to get through the stress of being successful. Best-selling cookbook authors and James Beard nominees Cheryl and Griff Day, owners of one of the more iconic bakeries in the southern United States, made the decision to embrace more of a life balance and change their bakery’s hours, and it’s proving to be good for the business as well.
 
Why restaurant tips won
Tip-free dining was supposed to be the future of dining in New York and beyond. Instead, many owners are now scrambling to revert to the old way of doing things. 
 
McDonald’s new antibiotics policy could change the beef industry
McDonald’s Corp. announced a new beef antibiotic policy affecting 85 percent of its global supply chain and intended to reduce the use of antibiotics important to human health. Because of the chain’s massive buying power, the plan has the potential to change practices for the overall beef industry.
 
Portland restaurants could be fined $500 for giving out plastic straws
Portland, Oregon restaurant owners could get slapped with a $500 fine for giving customers plastic cutlery or straws, thanks to a recently approved city ordinance. It's not an outright ban, but starting July 1, 2019, restaurant employees must ask customers if they want disposable silverware or straws before throwing them in the to-go bag.