Santa Barbara’s Billion-Dollar Tourism Industry

Business Is Booming with Rising Bed Tax Revenue and Incoming Cruise-Ship Fleet

Friday, May 10, 2013
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Quick now: What’s Santa Barbara County’s $1.4 billion industry? (I don’t mean strawberries or marijuana.) Answer: Tourism.

That was the word Friday from Laura McIver, board chair of the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau and Film Commission, whose members gathered at the newly reopened El Encanto Hotel, where she is general manager.

Visitors are spending $106 billion a year in California, despite intense and mounting competition from other states and foreign nations that are bankrolling efforts to lure eaters, drinkers, and sightseers, said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California, a nonprofit that beats the drum for tourism.

“Marriott is building a new hotel a month in China,” she pointed out. Anne Madison, chief communications officer of Brand USA, which promotes U.S. tourism from other countries, pointed out how it’s a major job creator. California, she said, has “an embarrassment of riches” for foreign visitors.

Meanwhile, tourism is booming in Santa Barbara, with bed tax revenue rising and 22 cruise ships disgorging passengers here this year, many of whom have never been to Santa Barbara before.

Some cruise lines have pulled ships from Mexican itineraries due to fears of violence south of the border and rerouted them along the U.S. Pacific coast.

Taking over this year for McIver as Conference & Visitors Bureau board chair is Matthew La Vine, general manager at the Fess Parker DoubleTree Resort.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

And decreased quality of life for the people who live here.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 10, 2013 at 6:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I agree...the last thing I am looking forward to, is another Cruise Ship in this harbor. They scare me. Where is all the refuse and bathroom pollution going? Do we get paid to take their trash? Is the bathroom debris going into our pristine fishing/swimming waters? I heard that they wait until they are just off the coast...not pleasant. Where are the fishermen in this hideous situation...are they worried about their industry? Aren't we worried about our waters? What happened to our so called Green Movement? Ahhhhh!!!

therailer (anonymous profile)
May 10, 2013 at 7:37 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I work in the tourism industry here in SB..
I know all the tour related businessess & their owners...
So, when I say tourism is not booming,believe it.
This article is in place for tourist eyes, to bolster their confidence in vacationing here.
If the actual crime stats were posted,they would not come.
So instead of fixing our issues & making this a tour-friendly town, tourists are lied to [as are we] & lives & safety are put at risk for a buck. The city of Santa Barbara is lying to us all.

PeterPeli (anonymous profile)
May 11, 2013 at 8:25 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Without compromising your confidential sources, please provide the actual crime stats the city is lying to us about.

pk (anonymous profile)
May 11, 2013 at 9:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

My brother arranged a corporate retreat in SB. They stayed at the Red Lion. As a UCSB grad, he wanted to bring this int'l group up for some golf and wine tasting along with strategy sessions. The first night they walked out to roll down State st. for dinner and the overriding comments were how surprised and turned off they were by all the motorhomes lining Cabrillo and bums and vagrants everywhere. Needless to say SB won't be seeing their tourist dollars ever again. Sad.

sa1 (anonymous profile)
May 11, 2013 at 9:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

But the Indy *does* post crime stats:

And the latest bed tax numbers do indicate tourism is doing well in SB:

My own barometer of tourist activity is to sit @Habit and watch the herds amble by.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
May 11, 2013 at 12:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Cruise ships don't bring much (don't know about the harbor fees): no bed tax. They're probably buying some cheap souvenirs (T-shirts, caps and stuff), not spending much in restaurants (it's all free on board), maybe they take a trolley to the mission and courthouse. Businesses in the Granada Theater area don't see any of the cruisers, even with information and ads targeted to them. (Have you ever seen them when they get ashore to the busses waiting for them? Not much to expect).

What we urgently need are those visitors coming for business, conferences, meetings, even weddings — these are spending money here. But over the last years less and less are coming (at least to my observation).

jnm99 (anonymous profile)
May 11, 2013 at 1:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

If RVs lining Cabrillo blvd are enough to scare off some tourist, bring on the RVs. Why would we want to encourage shallow people to come here, regardless of their wealth? If it's because of their wealth that you associate with someone, you're not much different than an aggressive panhandler yourself.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 11, 2013 at 1:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Another reason we have less visitors to Santa Barbara?
Many people used to take day trips to visit the shops, cafes etc. What's becoming the drunk zone and above was once full of one shops and the like offering items you couldn't get just anywhere. Now mostly you see the same corporate stores you'd find in any strip mall, and what money that is spent doesn't stay here because the merchant lives in Venice.
There used to more venues for a greater variety of artists in different mediums to show, play and sell their work. Most of that has gone to Ventura and so have the audiences.
That leaves the ocean, mountains and mission all of which can be found up and down the Cali coast.
Drink up.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 11, 2013 at 3:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

PeterPeli: There really aren't any "actual crime stats". Many of us have stopped reporting crimes because we really don't have a "public safety" organization. SBPD enforces laws that allow imposition of fines and penalties, and SB cc has transferred this income back to SBPD. If your home is burglarized with no witnesses, they don't make a dime. On the other hand, lowlifes who can illegally get a high $ DUI conviction are rewarded for their crimes.
Tourism is a negative for SB residents -people who need jobs that pay a living wage and affordable housing. Local government is stabbing itself in the back by forcing local residents to use pricey social welfare programs to survive while sabotaging new sources of revenue and driving existing businesses out of town by increasing taxes and fees.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
May 11, 2013 at 3:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)


Right on the money. Old main street Ventura that once was a dump has had a nice revival and is very pleasant to visit, unlike downtown Santa Barbara. I have to travel to Ventura Marina in order to find a fully stocked Dive shop now that old Divers Den (Anacapa Dive) location is a wine bar.

In the 60's, 70's, and early 80's people traveled to Santa Barbara to find all the good stuff, now it is the other way around. The Funk Zone is becoming the dead zone. I can even enjoy Brophy Bros in Ventura.

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
May 13, 2013 at 8:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Cruise ships do not release their untreated waste water into the oceans. This is a very heavily regulated industry with strict environmental accountability. The only offensive effluent associated with cruise ships are typical enviro-wackos who keep spreading lies.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 13, 2013 at 2:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Tee-hee pot jokes and politically correct inflammatory language put-downs still being "disgorged" by resident wag Brantingham. I see he has not changed his style one bit.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 13, 2013 at 2:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Bring back the pot shops if you really want to see a boom.

AZ2SB (anonymous profile)
May 13, 2013 at 7:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

foofighter: You might want to consider the concept of basing your comments on facts, rather than delusions.

az2sb: Actually, local dispensaries only provided medicine to legal county residents. The cops had to resort to using forged ID's and forged mmj recommendations to entrap the only dispensary operators charged with an illegal sale, although they destroyed a lot of legally grown medical cannabis and provide no protection against theft of legal mmj grown by legal residential cooperatives.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
May 31, 2013 at 11:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It's a Ponzi Scheme--"tourism benefits our economy" they, say, but what do they mean by "our" economy? I'll give you a hint: It's those who directly profit from tourism.

Solvang is now choking with traffic. I tried negotiating my way around town this afternoon and I could not believe how in a few short years, the place has changed. But stop and think about it: The only effect more tourism has on locals is more traffic, and more crime, (out-of-towners looking to drink/raise hell) Unless you are directly involved in the tourist industry, you money comes from your job, or your retirement. When was the last time anyone said "I can much more easilty afford to live here because of all the new hotels/etc,."?

People so worried about a Target store or a Costco or a Walmart going up in their town, yet the tourism industry crams endless traffic and pedestrians into wherever they have a foothold without anywhere near the opposition. Amazing.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
May 31, 2013 at 6:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Most of the tourist dollars go out of town to some mega corporation.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 31, 2013 at 8:38 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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