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Cruise Ship Visits Contributed $3.9 Million to Santa Barbara Economy in 2016

Hospitality industry digs into visitor trends at the 2017 Travel Outlook event

Peter Yesawich of MMGY Global spoke at the 2017 Travel Outlook hosted by Visit Santa Barbara. Click to view larger
Peter Yesawich of MMGY Global spoke at the 2017 Travel Outlook hosted by Visit Santa Barbara. (Visit Santa Barbara photo)

The cruise ship business is a critical boost to the local Santa Barbara economy, bringing an estimated $3.9 million to the area last year, according to hospitality industry consultants. 

Visit Santa Barbara, a marketing organization for Santa Barbara’s South Coast region, released findings from the 2016 Cruise Ship Economic Impact Study on Friday. 

The organization credits the growth, 61 percent up from 2013, to the increase in cruise ships, which went from 21 in 2013 to 29 in 2016.

Last year, the ships brought 80,831 travelers to Santa Barbara, with passengers reported spending an average of $109.25 per travel party, according to the data from the market research firm Destination Analysts.

Restaurants and retail were noted as the largest components of visitor spending. 

Santa Barbara also receives an estimated $650,000 per year from the tax revenues and fees from cruise ships, according to the study. 

“We will continue to develop this sector in the most strategic way to benefit the community, particularly the retail sector, in partnership with the city of Santa Barbara Waterfront Department,” Visit Santa Barbara President and CEO Kathy Janega-Dykes said.

The study gathered information from 804 passengers from five cruises as they returned to their ships after spending a day in Santa Barbara.

More than half of the cruise ship passengers disembarked and spent at least part of the day in Santa Barbara and surrounding areas, according to the survey.

This was just one aspect of information community representatives, hospitality industry leaders and others learned Friday morning at the 2017 Travel Outlook event, hosted by Visit Santa Barbara at the Cabrillo Arts Pavilion.

Janega-Dykes also presented preliminary results from the Santa Barbara South Coast Visitor Profile Study, which will be completed later this year.

Kassie Fraser, director of Asia Pacific marketing at Visit California, speaks during the 2017 Travel Outlook Friday morning at the Cabrillo Arts Pavilion. Click to view larger
Kassie Fraser, director of Asia Pacific marketing at Visit California, speaks during the 2017 Travel Outlook Friday morning at the Cabrillo Arts Pavilion. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

The Destination Analysts report showed the majority of visitors to Santa Barbara spent the day in the city, with one in three staying overnight.

Visitors arriving by air increased to 7.2 percent from 4.5 percent in 2013, the report said.

The event included presentations on international travel, including the growing Chinese visitor market, and trends impacting Santa Barbara’s leisure-travel industry from keynote speaker Peter Yesawich, principal of industry insights at MMGY Global.

The millennial generation — someone born between 1980 to 2000 — is important to the travel industry, Yesawich said.

Visitors in that age range like to travel in groups, hold a college education, want the ability to travel with a pet and promptly check an electronic device in the morning, he said.

“This is an emerging market for Santa Barbara — you have got to pay attention,” Yesawich said. “What drives them to think about the use of their leisure time and travel is fundamentally different than for others.”

Millennials are engaging with travel-related apps, he added. 

“It’s increasing clear that a lot is moving digital and that is important as it relates this younger crowd,” Yesawich.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland 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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