Leading a decade of strategic tourism growth
March 18, 2019 – Clay Gregory, CEO of Visit Napa Valley, announced he will retire at the end of April 2019, with Linsey Gallagher assuming the CEO & President role, effective May 1, 2019.
“Clay has been instrumental in the creation of the current funding structure and ongoing maturation of Visit Napa Valley over the past 10 years,” said Don Shindle, Chairman of Visit Napa Valley (VNV) Board of Directors, Napa Valley Tourism Corporation and General Manager of the Westin Verasa Napa. “On behalf of the Board and lodging industry, we are grateful for his leadership.”
As a globally renowned visitor destination and important economic base for Napa County, VNV strategically manages tourism with a focus towards encouraging visitation year-round, attracting diverse domestic and international markets, and representing visitor serving businesses within the community.
“The Board and I are pleased with the smooth and successful transition of Linsey Gallagher into the leadership role,” stated Gregory. “As we draft the fiscal year 2020-2023 Long-Range Plan, I am extremely confident in her stewardship of the Napa Valley as a desired visitor destination and community partner for the next 10 years.”
In June 2019, Visit Napa Valley will celebrate its 10th anniversary as the official tourism marketing organization for the Napa Valley, under its current structure. Tourism is Napa County’s second largest industry, generating more than $1.92 billion in annual spending, providing economic, cultural and civic benefits that improve the quality of life for Napa County residents and business owners.
In June 2009, Gregory served on the committee to create a new vision and strategy for the organization, then named the Napa Valley Destination Council. While a Tourism Board existed prior to 2009, there was no funding structure in place to sustain activities.
In 2010, with support from the county’s hospitality community, Gregory established the Napa Valley Tourism Improvement District (NVTID) to ensure that funding for marketing and promotion of the Napa Valley as a globally recognized destination was maintained at competitive levels.
The NVTID added a two percent assessment separate from the existing 12 percent transient occupancy tax (TOT), paid by all visitors staying in lodging facilities. Prior to the establishment of the TID, VNV’s annual operating budget was $400,000. Today, VNV’s FY19 annual budget is $7.8 million.
“The development of the Napa Valley Tourism Improvement District (NVTID) is one of Clay’s most outstanding accomplishments,” said Mike Gallagher, co-founder and co-chairman of CityPASS. “The funds from this initiative ensure that Visit Napa Valley has the ability to remain competitive with the other major wine regions in the world.”
Napa Valley was the 50th region in the state of California to secure TID funding and the first to earmark 25 percent of the funds to each town in the region. Presently, there are 106 TID’s in California and approximately 174 throughout the U.S.
Gregory positioned VNV to support the entire valley, to ensure each town was equally represented. In 2009, VNV developed the region’s first lodging committee, as well as its first marketing committee. Finance, sales and media relations committees have since been added. Under Gregory’s leadership, the VNV staff grew from three employees in 2009 to a current staff of 28; while partnership grew from six members in 2009 to nearly 400 in 2018.
In 2011, Visit Napa Valley opened the Napa Valley Welcome Center in the Riverfront area of downtown Napa. With the goal of providing a consistent visitor information experience throughout the Napa Valley, VNV began funding the Guest Information Network in fiscal year 2014 to the Welcome Centers in American Canyon, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga.
To draw more international attention to the Napa Valley wine region, in 2009 Gregory collaborated with the San Francisco Travel Association to become part of the Great Wine Capitals. Additionally, in an effort to encourage more visitors to the Napa Valley during “need times,” (mid-week and November through April) VNV created various events and marketing programs including Flavor! Napa Valley (2011 – 2017); “Arts in April” (2010 – present); and “Cabernet Season,” a marketing term created in 2012 to brand low season.
VNV formed partnerships to support the creation of Festival Napa Valley (formerly Festival del Sole); the Napa Valley Film Festival; BottleRock Napa Valley, and more. Additionally, VNV, on behalf of the lodging industry, has pledged $2.5 million in support of the Napa Valley Vine Trail over the course of 10 years.
To better understand how to best market Napa Valley to new and repeat visitors, in 2012 VNV commissioned the organization’s first official Visitor Profile Study. A preliminary study was created in 2005 by Purdue University’s Tourism and Hospitality Research Center. Additional studies were completed for 2014, 2016, and 2018.
In 2017 VNV launched the first “Tourism Matters” campaign, educating government and community leaders as well as residents about the importance of the tourism industry to Napa County. In 2018, VNV rallied the support of the hospitality industry and other leaders to pass a voter supported one percent increase in TOT for a special fund dedicated to workforce housing in five out of six jurisdictions.
Clay Gregory Bio
Prior to his role with the Visit Napa Valley, Gregory served in key wine industry leadership roles, including as President of Jackson Family Wines, and Vice President and General Manager of Robert Mondavi Winery.
Gregory has been an active member of community and industry associations, including serving as President of the Napa Valley Vintners in 2003; as well as serving on the Auction Napa Valley Board from 2000 – 2003. He also served as President of the Oakville Winegrowers in the early 1990’s; Napa Humane from 2007-2012; and the Napa Chamber of Commerce from 2009 – 2013. He is currently on the Board of Directors for US Travel.
Gregory was born in Manhattan Beach, CA and raised in northern California, earning undergraduate and MBA degrees from San Jose State University, with a concentration in Marketing. Travel, cooking, golf, and the San Francisco Giants are some of his passions. He looks forward to enjoying retirement with his wife and two Basset hounds in the Napa Valley.
About Visit Napa Valley
Visit Napa Valley is the official tourism marketing organization for the Napa Valley, with a mission to promote, protect and enhance the region’s position as one of the world’s premier wine, food, arts and wellness destinations.
The Napa Valley, conveniently located just an hour from the San Francisco Bay Area, consists of the following distinctive towns, including, from north to south, Calistoga, St. Helena, Rutherford/Oakville, Yountville, the city of Napa, American Canyon, and the outdoor recreation area of Lake Berryessa.