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Santa Barbara Tourism Surpasses Goals for First Year of Five-Year Strategic Plan

City Administrator Jim Armstrong says transient occupancy tax recovery has been 'more rapid than we thought'

Santa Barbara has been getting more overnight visitors — for business and pleasure — and surpassed the goals for the first year of the five-year strategic plan, according to Kathy Janega-Dykes, president of the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau and Film Commission.

She told the City Council in a presentation Tuesday that there was a 70.5 percent occupancy rate in 2011-12 with 1,033,159 rooms sold, including more than 17,000 generated by the Conference & Visitors Bureau.

This year, promoting the area was helped along by extra advertising revenue from the newly formed South Coast Tourism Business Improvement District, which brings in about $1.8 million annually for tourism advertising, and a visit from Prince William and Kate Middleton in July.

Transient occupancy tax — or bed tax — recovery has been “more rapid than we thought,” City Administrator Jim Armstrong said Tuesday, adding that so far this fiscal year, those taxes have increased almost 10 percent over this time last year.

Janega-Dykes said the attention Santa Barbara received for the royal couple’s visit had an advertising value of $640,000, adding that the CVC&FC wants to attract more international visitors — who have a favorable exchange rate right now — meetings and conferences, cruise ships and any other overnight stays.

She said the organization focuses on the United Kingdom and Australia but is looking at more of Europe, South America and the luxury market in Mexico.

“The international markets really did keep us afloat the last few years when the economy softened,” Janega-Dykes said. “They still found the United States to be a deal.”

Next up, she said, is a Santa Barbara Culture 101 campaign, highlighting the region’s theater, art, food and more.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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