Over the past eight years, 12 cruise ships have visited Santa Barbara, bringing 36,000 passengers to our harbor, generating $162,000 in Waterfront Department landing fees and adding notable economic benefits to the Santa Barbara business community. Based on expressed interest by cruise line operators and the City’s reception to increased ship visits, seven cruise ships are scheduled for next year.
“Congratulations to John Bridley, the City’s Waterfront Director, and his entire crew for adding eight more cruise ship visits in the next 12 months,” said Council Member Frank Hotchkiss, liaison to the Harbor Commission. “Soon after I was elected to Council, I thought having more cruise ship visits would be a great way to boost our local economy. I believe this will be a significant boost for our tourist industry.”
Most cruise ships visit during spring and fall, repositioning periods between Alaska and the Mexican Riviera. The Waterfront Department plans months in advance with cruise ship representatives, local Chamber of Commerce groups, other City Departments and security agencies facilitating logistics for arriving passengers. The advance planning process has become streamlined and less burdensome as more local agencies participate.
In time for the upcoming holidays, Princess Cruise Line’s Sapphire Princess will visit December 19, marking her fifth stop in Santa Barbara. Weather permitting, 3,700 passengers and crew will flow into downtown shops and businesses. “Our ships have been calling periodically in Santa Barbara since 2002, and it’s always a popular stop for our passengers,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises’ executive vice president.
“We value our relationship with the City and the port, and the way the community has welcomed our passengers. We look forward to visiting more often in the future on our new California Coastal itinerary.”
A successful working relationship between community organizations and cruise lines has helped establish a hospitality volunteer program, a coordinated transportation plan and a marketing campaign guided by The Santa Barbara Conference and Visitors Bureau. In addition, a partnership between the Santa Barbara Chamber, Santa Barbara Downtown Organization, Waterfront Department and Waterfront Merchants Associations has enhanced success of the visits.
“I have never seen such a smooth, coordinated, and cooperative effort by the City and business organizations to promote local economic development,” said Steve Cushman, Chamber of Commerce president.
Included in seven proposed cruise ship visits scheduled for 2011 are the following: Crystal Cruise Line’s Crystal Symphony is slated to visit twice in April, once in November and once in December. The Sapphire Princess will visit in May, September and October.
“The arrival of regularly scheduled cruise ships will provide a notable economic boost for our community, particularly in downtown Santa Barbara’s retail sector,” explained Kathy Jenega-Dykes, the Conference & Visitors Bureau’s CEO/President.
“Catalina Island officials estimate that each ship infuses at least $350,000 in visitor spending. From a tourism marketing point of view, passengers are excellent prospects for future visits to the City. The Conference & Visitors Bureau will be developing a campaign specifically designed to encourage cruise passengers to return. In addition to generating future business, being part of a cruise ship’s itinerary automatically elevates Santa Barbara’s profile and promotes the City to affluent travelers.”
During a persistent down economy, the increased number of cruise ship visits is especially beneficial to the City and local businesses. Bill Coyller, Santa Barbara Downtown Organization director, is receptive to the increased visits. “The Downtown Organization welcomes the added cruise ship visits. Thousands of passengers and crew will flood downtown shops, museums, historical sites and eateries for the day, taking in everything we have to offer. The cruise industry reports an average couple spends $200 per port and while the economy is looking up, we need to creatively perpetuate that momentum. Welcoming these ships to Santa Barbara is an investment in our future, economy and reputation as an international travel destination. Everyone knows that once you’ve visited Santa Barbara, you’ll be drawn back to its charm and beauty.”
Added Waterfront Director John Bridley, “Cruise ship visits are typically infrequent in Santa Barbara. We would like to find a balance between these beneficial ship visits and not creating an atmosphere that overwhelms the harbor and/or our community. We are still a relatively small, working harbor with limited facilities, but we nonetheless look forward to the increased ship visits.”