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Tourism overview previews what to expect throughout 2023 in Santa Barbara County

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - With shifting factors ranging from COVID concerns to the price of fuel,  tourism is still a climate that will be challenging for those in the industry in 2023.

An overview has been presented by Visit Santa Barbara at Tourism Summit that covered the range of success in 2022 to a poor start in 2023.

Organizers showed Visit Santa Barbara’s marketing, sales and community partnership programs.

One of the video ads has a script and shots that are scenic, historic, full of outdoor locations, dining, adventurous sites and a closing line that says, "there's beautiful and there's Santa Barbara."

One of the direct indicators in 2023 came at the airport which had 1.2 million passengers, a record.

Visit Santa Barbara CEO Kathy Janega-Dykes said, "The City of Santa Barbara and the City of Goleta and the County of Santa Barbara collectively topped $600-million dollars in transient occupancy tax for south coast for the first time."

Visit Santa Barbara says the start of the year has been impacted by several factors including inflation, and airline disruptions.

The recent rains have also led to the soggy and sluggish start.


"Occupancy rates and room revenue have slipped below the same period a year ago" says Janega-Dykes.

A quick marketing burst now, on social media and other platforms is being launch to get the travelers attention.


Janega-Dykes said, "and just in January and February alone we have shifted funds so our advertising investments almost $1-million just for those two months."


One of the ways Visit Santa Barbara is hoping to help the industry rebound is a promotion called "third night free" which is just about to launch.   If you stay for two nights you get the third night at no charge. Already 19 properties have signed up.

Clayton Reid with  MMGY a  travel, tourism and hospitality marketing company   says he sees some areas where travel and hospitality will see a rebound.


That includes the return of travel from China to the U.S. which had some restrictions.


Reid said, "even a million Chinese travelers which is below what  historically comes into the country  that's a big number.    Visit California and Brand USA will help drive that business into  this community  and I am actually bullish that China will lift you going forward."

 He expects the travelers to be an affluent visitor and many will arrive on a driving trip. Sunny days also dry up the recent wet weather impacts quickly and any images of a muddy community.

"These floods and some of the challenges with the weather will not be a challenge in your community," said Reid.  

The event was held in Cabrillo Arts Pavillion and drew a full room of interested professionals in the industry.


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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3-12. To learn more about John, click here.

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