The SCVB contracted with Lauren Schlau (LSC) and Horizon Consumer Science to quantify visitor demographics, trip behavior and spending data. SCVB Executive Director Tracy Farhad and Schlau jointly presented the survey results and encouraged everyone to review the complete summary which serves as a key to future marketing plans for all current and potential Solvang businesses. It is posted at online at www.solvangusa.com/-cvb-services-research
For the purposes of this study, a “visitor” was defined as anyone in Solvang for a transient purpose other than work or school who resides outside of Santa Barbara County (to distinguish “local” from “visitor” impacts). Highlights during the study period (September 2011-August 2012) revealed:
· Some 1.5 million people visited Solvang with an average length of stay of 1.7 days.
· 81% were day visitors; 17% stayed hotels/inns and 3% in other lodging/private homes.
· Visitors spent $98 million in the city with hotel visitors spending 52%; day visitors 41% and other lodging/private stay visitors spending 7% of the total.
· Visitors generated $2,672,700 million in hotel transient occupancy tax (TOT) and $579,790 retail sales tax (combined tax revenues of $3.2 million)
· Without visitors paying TOT and retail sales taxes, Solvang households would need to pay an additional $1,450 annually to maintain the level of city services currently provided.
· Hotel occupancy rate for year was 67.2% with an average guest room rate of $148 per night. Summer was the strongest season with 82% occupancy and $169 average rate; winter the least active with 54% occupancy and $128 average room rate.
· Visitors averaged 44 years of age with a median household income of $79,000; with 68.6% California residents, 16.4% from other US states and 15.0% international.
· Top five visitor activities in Solvang were: general sightseeing; strolling/browsing; shopping; dining; visiting tasting rooms.
· Visitor activity supported nearly 950 jobs in the city (30% of the workforce).
· 91% of residents rated tourism as “very important” (by 46%) and “absolutely essential” (by 45%) to Solvang’s economy.
From September 2011 through August 2012, data was collected in four ways:
· 600 (150 per quarter) random on-site visitor surveys by a professional interviewer in downtown Solvang
· Monthly hotel occupancy and rate data provided by 15 Solvang hotels/motels/inns
· Retail sales tax receipts and transient occupancy tax (TOT) receipts provided by the City of Solvang
· 150 telephone interviews with a random sampling of Solvang residents
Farhad emphasized, “As the city’s not-for-profit tourism promotion agency, these results are extremely valuable for our future marketing, operations and strategic planning. We are pleased to share them with City officials, businesses and the public. Moving forward, we will be doing extensive review and we plan to address extending the average length of stay especially in seasonal slow months and mid-week periods as well along with additional outreach programs.”