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Santa Barbara hotels face uncertain fall, winter

Vacancy sign
Ryan Fish/KEYT
After a near-silent spring, the summer brought visitors back to Santa Barbara hotels. The next few months, however, are filled with unknowns.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Many Santa Barbara hotels were able to fill most of their rooms this summer, despite ongoing coronavirus travel concerns.

One manager estimated his summer room occupancy at 75 percent, compared to 85 or 90 percent during a normal summer.

Brisas Del Mar, Inn by the Beach general manager Greg Broussard estimates his hotel was at about 70 percent this summer.

"I'm happy with that, considering everything," he said Wednesday.

But as the pandemic now stretches into the fall, there is plenty of uncertainty about the next few months.

Multiple Santa Barbara hotel managers say last-minute bookings--usually from people within driving distance--are frequent and still filling hotel rooms--albeit not up to usual standards.

Brisas Del Mar and other inns near the waterfront are still consistently selling out on weekends.

“We’re hoping that the weekends stay strong because people do want to take little vacations,” Broussard said.

Short vacations and one-night stays have become common. Several Santa Barbara resorts and hotels are now offering a free third night with a two-night stay this fall to encourage longer visits. Multiple hotels reported few or no reservations booked after October.

Managers also say this year they are not seeing any reservations from international travelers—who usually visit the California coast in big numbers during the fall, when rates are cheaper. Missing out on that group would deliver a big financial hit.

Additionally, there is concern that the slower-than-average summer could mean some hotels won't have enough cash saved up to make it through a quiet winter.

“The summer is usually when the hospitality businesses are able to put aside cash to get them through the slower winter months. And that just hasn’t happened this year,” Ramada by Wyndham Santa Barbara general manager and partner Tom Patton said last week. “So I’m not sure what’s gonna happen to a lot of these businesses six months down the road when we get to the depths of the winter season.”

Coronavirus / Lifestyle / Money and Business / Safety / Santa Barbara- S County

Ryan Fish

Ryan Fish is a reporter, sports anchor and forecaster at KEYT|KCOY|KKFX.