Santa Barbara Tourist Industry Bullish on Post-Pandemic Demand

South Coast Tourism Org Sees Uptick in Hotel Revenues, Hopes for More Out-of-State Visitors

Louie’s California Bistro at the Upham Hotel | Credit: Credit: Courtesy

Visit Santa Barbara, the official marketing organization for South Coast tourism, is bullish on the demand for post-pandemic travel based on recent research.

According to data collected last month from 1,209 American travelers, 80.6 percent said they were ready to get away this summer, with more than a third of those people looking to “relax, chill-out, decompress,” in a “small town” or “beach destination.” 

As COVID-19 case numbers continue to decline, nearly 83.2 percent said they were confident they could travel safely in the current environment, a notable increase from this spring and a large uptick over last summer.

A majority of respondents ― 67.8 percent ― reported they were vaccinated, and 55.2 percent said they wouldn’t travel outside the United States until the coronavirus situation was fully “resolved.”

Already at the local level, Visit Santa Barbara is seeing hotel revenues surpass previous pre-pandemic highs, with California residents accounting for more than 80 percent of overnight guests.


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While those regional customers shouldn’t be overlooked, the organization said, it is also hoping to drum up interest among out-of-state visitors, who stay an average of 30 percent longer and therefore spend more money on food, goods, and services.

“Although it is unlikely out-of-state visitors will ever exceed the economic impact of Californians,” the organization said in its annual report, “we look forward to a day when our mix of visitors is balanced between high-frequency in-state travel and higher-value out-of-state trips.”

Like most nonprofit organizations, Visit Santa Barbara ― which operates with a $7.1 million budget ― was forced to tighten its belt during the pandemic, shrinking staff from 17 to 12 full-time positions. Representatives said they hope to grow back to 15 employees by the end of the year.


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