Just as tourists began to put away their masks and hit the road, inflationary pressures began to put a damper on travel plans, or at the very least, weigh on traveler morale, according to a national society of travel research.

“Throughout the year, it appears we’ve had a slow decline in travel business,” said David Bratton, founder and chief executive of San Francisco-based Destination Analysts, a national travel research firm. the trips. “It hasn’t been dramatic, but it’s definitely going in the direction we don’t want it to go, and especially with all the pandemic measures looking so good.”

According to the company’s latest survey released September 7, when asked about the top barriers to travel, respondents identified gas prices (45.6%), travel costs (40.8%) and personal finances (35.5%). Destination analyst findings were collected from more than 4,000 U.S. travelers between August 15 and August 21, 2022.

These concerns have been exacerbated by frustrations over service issues in the airline industry and tourism-oriented businesses, Destination Analysts’ September survey found. One in 10 travelers who participated in the survey said they reconsidered their fall travel plans because of those frustrations, Bratton said.

However, those complaints have yet to curb the upward trend in visitor spending as the pandemic wanes, according to Visit California’s July research report, released Aug. 8.

Monthly travel spending across the state since the start of the pandemic, data shows visitor spending in March 2020 totaled $5.9 billion, down 55% from March 2019. But in June 2022 spending hit $13.7 billion, just 3% lower than June 2019, according to Visit California, citing data from Tourism Economics.

The Visit California report also showed that air travel across the state slowed slightly in July, averaging 15.9 million travelers per week. Weekly tallies that month were down 11% to 14% from 2019.

But there’s one airport in California that’s most important to North Bay’s tourism industry and that’s San Francisco International Airport (SFO), which is the main gateway into wine country for national and international travelers.

San Francisco airport has come back strong from the depths of the pandemic, according to the San Francisco Travel Association, which held its annual visitor and accommodation forecast forum Aug. 24.

SFO expects it will carry more than 40 million passengers this year, up about 16 million from the 24 million passengers carried last year, according to San Francisco Travel. The airport expects it to return to 2019 passenger levels between 2024 and 2026.

“What we’ve seen historically is that about a quarter of the people who come to San Francisco, either for leisure or business, end up going to wine country,” said Bratton of Destination. Analysts, who for a decade was a research director in San Francisco. Francois Voyage. “So the two are locked into a relationship that is really important to each other. Anything that hurts travel in San Francisco will hurt travel in the wine regions.

Meanwhile, year-over-year hotel occupancy rates in North Bay’s four largest counties — Napa, Sonoma, Marin and Solano — have improved this year, according to July data from the most recent travel industry data company STR available.

In July, Napa County had an occupancy rate of 67.2%, down 9.6% from a year earlier, but year-to-date revenue totaled $322 million , a jump of 63.5% from July 2021, according to STR.

Sonoma County’s occupancy rate in July was 72.2%, down 5.9% from July 2021, but total revenue was up 33.8% from a year earlier, to hit $234 million, according to the numbers.

The occupancy rate in Marin County in July was 78.2%, an increase of 1.4% over the previous year. Total hotel revenue in the county in July had soared 43.4%, to $76 million, the figures showed.

And Solano County’s July occupancy rate was 71.5%, down 0.9% from July 2021. Year-to-date revenue rose 1.8%, to $66 million, according to STR.

Overall, visitor growth for the entire San Francisco Bay Area, including the Peninsula, East Bay, Marin County, and the wine counties of Napa and Sonoma, is expected to increase 21.4% by the end of 2022, according to San Francisco Travel. .

“We are clearly on the road to recovery, but we still have some way to go before we reach pre-pandemic levels of tourism,” said Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of San Francisco. Travel, in an Aug. 24 statement.

Cheryl Sarfaty covers tourism, hospitality, healthcare and employment. She previously worked for a Gannett daily in New Jersey and for NJBIZ, the state’s business newspaper. Cheryl has freelanced for business journals in Sacramento, Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Lehigh Valley, PA. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from California State University, Northridge. Reach her at [email protected] or 707-521-4259.