SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The pandemic shut down tourism as we know it last year.
After a bleak winter with an alarming COVID-19 surge, Santa Barbara's hospitality industry is slowly recovering as cases drop and more people are vaccinated.
“This is the week where we started to see a lot more pickup in reservations,” Eagle Inn manager Paul Bullock said Thursday. “I think we’re getting an older crowd because they’re the ones that have been lucky enough to get the vaccinations already.”
For the past several weeks, weekends have been a popular time for out-of-town visitors to come to the American Riviera. But those in the hospitality industry are hoping for an even bigger increase to come now that spring break season has begun.
"There’s definitely going to be huge pent up demand for travel in the coming months and the competition for the traveler's attention and dollars is going to be fierce," said Visit Santa Barbara President and CEO Kathy Janega-Dykes.
The tourism group has tracked mostly road trips and regional travel to Santa Barbara as of late. But those trends could be shifting.
“As consumer confidence and comfort levels start to build, we’re gonna see an uptick in air travel,” Janega-Dykes said. “And we’re starting to see more people from traveling further afield, more people coming down from the Bay Area.”
Santa Barbara remains a premier destination for those who feel comfortable enough to travel during the pandemic. But an increase in visitors also raises more concerns about COVID-19 spread. litany
Visit Santa Barbara is promoting the area's array of outdoor activities for spring break to promote traveling safely.
Santa Barbara County Public Health weighed in on spring break in a statement Friday, urging locals to stay local for the time being.
Citing concerning variants detected in the community, Public Health recommends those leaving the state get tested for COVID-19 and quarantine for 10 days upon return.