It has been a challenging few budget years for Santa Barbara, but the city plans to continue to aggressively market itself as a tourist destination.
The city has maintained an annual contract with the Santa Barbara Conference and Visitors Bureau and Film Commission for years to promote tourism in the area. The City Council earlier had approved a contract for the upcoming fiscal year of $1,349,535 to help support the expenses of administration, advertising, consumer and trade information services, public relations, sales and the Film Commission, and on Tuesday, the council received a report on how the SBCVB&FC will continue to market the city.
Kathy Janega-Dykes, SBCVB&FC president and CEO, said the organization “had to turn on a dime” and re-evaluate strategies several times.
“We’ve had to recapture the summer visitor, where before they were a given,” she said.
Transient occupancy taxes, or bed taxes, are a leading indicator of tax revenue for the city. Last month, city officials reported that TOT taxes had grown 9.7 percent through Dec. 31, bringing estimates for year-end totals up to pre-recession levels.
The formation of the South Coast Tourism and Business Improvement Districts also occurred last year, which placed a small fee on rented rooms that would go back into marketing the area to tourists. The supplemental TBID income is coming at the right time, Janega-Dykes said. Occupancy is higher than 8 percent just this year, she said.
A survey was sent to the lodging partners in the TBID, and focus groups were held. Targeting leisure and business travelers as well as the need to increase midweek and off-season stays were common themes. The off-season for Santa Barbara is November to March.
Janega-Dykes said 18 percent of the business mix that comes to Santa Barbara is made up of international visitors. In the future, the CVB will be reaching out to the United Kingdom, as well as Canadian and Australian markets. Domestically, the CVB will focus on drawing visitors from Arizona, Seattle, Portland, New York and Chicago, encouraging those visitors to stay longer while in Santa Barbara.
“I think in the last two years, we never had realize how important tourism was to our community,” she said.
The group plans to continue marketing the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, as well as Santa Barbara as a location to film.
In addition, the Santa Barbara Airport hopes to see its new terminal complete by 2012. When that project is done, Janega-Dykes said it will be marketing further afield as well.