Most visitors to Santa Barbara are married, traveling by car, participating in the arts and taking in the local sights, shops and restaurants during a weekend getaway or extended vacation.
They also love the enviable weather and beaches, and clock a mean age of 48.
That visitor profile was shared Wednesday morning during Visit Santa Barbara’s 2014 Travel Outlook, which commanded the attention of more than 100 attendees who hoped to learn more about the travelers they want to better serve in the future.
Hospitality industry professionals, community leaders and others were told there’s room for economic growth in the Santa Barbara County tourism industry, since more visitors equal more tax revenue, business and — indirectly — more jobs.
About 6.1 million people visited the South Coast in the past year, with an average of 25,500 visitors per day, according to David Bratton, founder of Destination Analysts who presented results of a South Coast Visitor Profile & Tourism Economic Impact Study.
Nearly 70 percent of those visitors came for the day, and 24.2 percent stayed one or more nights in a hotel, motel or inn.
“Hotel guests may not be the most numerous, but they’re definitely spending the most money,” Bratton said, adding that 58 percent of last year’s total spending — $850 million — was from overnight guests. “Clearly, the South Coast is a leisure paradise.”
Bratton said the South Coast was a “very walkable destination” that draws visitors with an annual household income of more than $100,000, and 32 percent of them are bringing their kids.
The travel presentation for the first time included a panel discussion that featured the presidents of all three South Coast chamber of commerce organizations, including Lynda Lang (Carpinteria Valley Chamber of Commerce), Kristen Miller (Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce) and Ken Oplinger (Santa Barbara Regional Chamber of Commerce).
Bruce Baltin, vice president of PKF Consulting, focused much of the 2014 Lodging Forecast on the high occupancy rates seen this year and the potential to grow those numbers in the next.
Baltin said the hotel occupancy rate on the South Coast was 73 percent in 2013, an increase of 8.5 percent over 2012 and the highest hotel occupancy rate in all of Southern California. North County rates also fared well, he added.
Although the 2014 rate was expected to remain relatively flat at 74 percent, Baltin said industry leaders could affect those projections by seizing opportunities, especially in the wine-tasting travel market.