More than 300 guests came out for Visit Santa Barbara’s Annual General Meeting & Tourism Celebration on Wednesday, May 15, including city officials, hoteliers, tour operators, museum staff, and more. This event, held at the newly opened Rosewood Miramar Beach Resort in Montecito, toasted Santa Barbara’s reputation as the American Riviera and highlighted National Travel and Tourism Week.
President/CEO Kathy Janega-Dykes started the program by praising the county’s exponential growth in hotels and restaurants, which continue to expand the already booming tourism industry. Santa Barbara’s tourism industry contributes to more than 13,000 jobs, she explained, with an average of 7.2 million tourists visiting each year.
Janega-Dykes also highlighted the “Santa Barbara Effect,” in which the destination “has a way of taking experiences and emotions we already enjoy to the next level.” It is this natural beauty coupled with the community’s “welcoming and infectious spirit” that makes Santa Barbara one of the world’s greatest tourist destinations, she said.
This year’s theme was titled Transformative Journeys, which made best-selling author, Cheryl Strayed, the perfect keynote to touch upon what it means to travel with a purpose. After her own speech, Strayed was interviewed on her memoir, Wild, in addition to her travel-centric philosophies.
“They see themselves and their own stories in the universal experience of transformative journeys,” explained Strayed, of how people from Dubai to India to California read Wild. “We speak to each other across genders, cultures, and even generations.”
Strayed recollected on childhood advice from her mother that stated: “There is something beautiful here and everywhere, and it is your job to find it.” This inspiring notion influenced Strayed’s outlook on how we, as individuals, should have meaningful travels. Her need to travel and explore is self-described as “a longing so urgent that it almost hurts.”
While explaining her near and far adventures, the author explained a somewhat unconventional perspective on the definition of taking a trip. “You don’t have to have a lot of money or even travel across the globe to go on a trip,” said Strayed, explaining that transformative journeys occur through the process of contemplation, exploration, and discovery.
This discovery can be internal or external, and taking a walk across town can even do it. Traveling and taking trips, no matter the size, allows us to expand our horizons and widen our perspectives. Strayed closed out the event by emphasizing that the key notion of traveling is the journey within, it is not just where you go.
Credit: Visit Santa Barbara