SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - With the Southern California Regional Stay-at-Home Order lifted, Santa Barbara County announced it can once again welcome leisure travelers to stay within its cities.
The stay-at-home order has been in place since Dec. 3, 2020, and was finally lifted on Monday, Jan. 25.
As a result, Santa Barbara County will return to the purple tier in the state’s metrics system, allowing for visitors to stay in its hotels and lodging properties.
This new status also allows outdoor dining, outdoor wine tasting, and other social activities to reopen countywide.
“This is a long-awaited day for Santa Barbara County’s hard-hit hospitality industry. We are grateful to our public officials for lifting some of the restrictions that have taken a heavy toll on so many local workers and struggling businesses,” said Visit Santa Barbara President/CEO Kathy Janega-Dykes. “Our community finally can start to get back to work and do what they do best with COVID-19 protocols in place. They are eager to safely welcome back residents and visitors to our restaurants, wineries, retail stores, lodging properties and other attractions.”
However, forced closures during the COVID-19 pandemic have had their toll on the local hospitality industry.
According to the state’s Employment Development Department, the Santa Barbara County's lodging sector lost more than 37% of its jobs (or 2,100 jobs) in the last year.
In December and January, hotel occupancy plummeted to just under 30% thanks to restrictions limiting hotel stays to essential travelers, Visit Santa Barbara explained.
Nearly a dozen hotels chose simply to close their doors and furlough staff in order to weather the loss of business this winter. Not to mention the loss of hundreds of local non-hospitality businesses and services this past year.
"This is only the first step to rebuilding our local economy,” said Janega-Dykes. “We still have a long road ahead. A full recovery of the hospitality sector will require the county to make additional progress when conditions allow. For example, our hotels and restaurants eagerly await the return of meetings, which are a significant driver of mid-week and shoulder season business, as well as indoor activities, such as dining, museums and live entertainment.”
While restrictions are now lifted regarding leisure stays at hotels, a California travel advisory remains in place recommending residents not to travel farther than 120 miles from their home.