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Local News

Tourism Talk of the Town at Marketing Meeting

Santa Barbara travel, restaurant and tour officials focus on new ways to lure more visitors to the city

At the annual marketing meeting of the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau and Film Commission on Thursday, executives stressed the importance of making the city the top destination of choice for those vacationing in California.

Even with the recession, people are still traveling, said Tom Patton, SBCVB&FC chairman. In fact, Santa Barbara has been hosting more people in town just for day trips, and many hotels have canceled their requirements for a two-night minimum stay to accommodate such travelers.

“Tourism is what drives this town,” Patton said.

Given the fact people are taking trips closer to home, a lot of marketing efforts are targeting the western United States.

Santa Barbara is pursuing becoming a tourism business improvement district (TBID), in which local businesses would contribute to the tourism fund that provides services to the contributing businesses.

Former SBCVB&FC chairman Mitchell Sjerven, a local chef and restaurateur, said a TBID is happening “whether you’re on board or not.” Literature about the district notes a target start date of 2010, but a petition lacks enough signatures to create a TBID in Santa Barbara.

With a smaller pool of vacationers, businesses need to use every marketing tool they can — which means going beyond the traditional. As far as Santa Barbara tourism is concerned, social media is the name of the game.

SBCVB&FC chairman Tom Patton said Thursday that even with the recession, people are still traveling.
SBCVB&FC chairman Tom Patton said Thursday that even with the recession, people are still traveling. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

It’s more flexible to handle the ever-changing shopping and travel behaviors, SBCVB&FC president and CEO Kathy Janega-Dykes said. While value-oriented programs are popular now, the industry will have to market differently when the economy takes an upturn.

Cultivar Marketing president Brian Baker’s presentation emphasized using online tools to communicate with customers.

Ninety percent of consumers trust peer recommendations, compared with just 14 percent who act on advertising, he said. With this in mind, it’s important to have an online presence to monitor what people say about the brand, he said.

Having business profiles on social networking sites and tracking a business’ Web site traffic can do a lot to enhance marketing, Baker said.

“It’s an opportunity for all of us at the same time to talk to all of us at the same time,” he said. However, a company shouldn’t outshout all the customers — online communication should be a two-way street, he added.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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