Tuesday, November 21 , 2017, 11:53 pm | Fair 56º

 
 
 
Reimagine: Santa Barbara
A Noozhawk Partnership with Shared Mission Santa Barbara, KYET News Channel 3, Montecito Bank and Trust, SIMA, and Community West Bank

Tourism Dollars Help Keep Santa Barbara’s Economy Cruising Along

Study shows 7.2 million visitors stopped by in last year, contributing $1.9 billion and supporting more than 13,000 jobs

The Grand Princess cruise ship anchors offshore Santa Barbara on Oct. 17. An estimated 1,000 passengers were exploring the city while it was here. Click to view larger
The Grand Princess cruise ship anchors offshore Santa Barbara on Oct. 17. An estimated 1,000 passengers were exploring the city while it was here. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

[Noozhawk’s note: Part of a series called Reimagine: Santa Barbara, a Noozhawk special report produced in partnership with Shared Mission Santa Barbara and KEYT News. Over the next several weeks, the series will trace the founding and evolution of downtown Santa Barbara, dive into the challenges we’re confronting today, explore the exciting opportunities in front of us, and take a look at what’s happening with downtowns in other communities. Throughout the series, we’ll be asking you to help us identify priorities and form a vision for State Street’s future.]

It’s no secret that tourism is an economic engine for Santa Barbara and the South Coast, and a powerful one at that.

A recent study found that Santa Barbara welcomed about 7.2 million visitors between September 2016 and August 2017, an increase of about 1.1 million compared to a 2013 analysis conducted by the same tourism industry research company, San Francisco-based Destination Analysts Inc.

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Visitor-related spending contributed $1.9 billion to the local economy and it supports more than 13,000 jobs, according to the latest study.

“Without tourism, each resident in the Santa Barbara South Coast would need to spend an additional $10,317 annually to maintain current economic standards,” said Kathy Janega-Dykes, president and CEO of Visit Santa Barbara, referring to the 2013 numbers.

That figure has risen to $13,241 in the new study.

“In addition, a great many of the everyday attractions that residents enjoy in their leisure time — from the wide variety of outstanding restaurants and wine-tasting rooms to museums and excursions, like kayak rentals and sailing — would not be available without the support of visitors,” Janega-Dykes told Noozhawk.

Kathy Janega-Dykes, president and CEO of Visit Santa Barbara, said visitors contributed $1.9 billion to the local economy last year. Click to view larger
Kathy Janega-Dykes, president and CEO of Visit Santa Barbara, said visitors contributed $1.9 billion to the local economy last year. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

She said tourism supports a variety of businesses on the South Coast, most significantly lodging, restaurants and shopping.

The UCSB Economic Forecast Project notes that, as of September, employment in the leisure and hospitality industry represented 14.2 percent (28,941 jobs) of Santa Barbara County’s total. The retail trade industry’s jobs represented 9.4 percent of total employment.

Santa Barbara has long been a destination for travelers. Its mystique goes back more than a century.

“In the 1800s, East Coast residents from prominent families came by train to spend the winter months in Santa Barbara’s temperate climate, and the area was thought to be restorative and good for health,” Janega-Dykes explained.

“A hot springs resort with its ‘curative’ waters and the clean, fresh air were part of the draw.”

Today, visitors arrive mostly by car, and also by plane, train, tour bus and cruise ship.

Cruise ships anchor a few miles offshore from the Santa Barbara Harbor and, while visitors often only spend a day exploring the area, the impact on the local economy is extensive.

Visit Santa Barbara’s 2016 Cruise Ship Passenger Survey & Economic Impact Study concluded that the total estimated impact of the cruise ship industry in Santa Barbara was $3.9 million that year.

Last year, 29 cruise ships dropped anchor off Santa Barbara, and passengers reported spending the most money at restaurants, followed by retail.

The Santa Barbara County Courthouse is a popular destination for tourists, particularly the climb to the top of the clock tower. Click to view larger
The Santa Barbara County Courthouse is a popular destination for tourists, particularly the climb to the top of the clock tower. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

According to the study, more than half of the passengers in 2016 — 56.4 percent — were first-time visitors to Santa Barbara.

Cruise ships mainly visit Santa Barbara from September to December and January to June.

Visits also boost business for tour operators, restaurants, wineries and local attractions in the off-season, encourage return visits and contribute to waterfront improvements through the collection of head fees, according to the study.

About This Series

Noozhawk’s Reimagine: Santa Barbara project is exploring the challenges and opportunities in downtown today, and will be working with you, our readers, to identify priorities and form a vision for State Street’s future.

It’s not just about shopping or dining, but finding out what locals want for the next generation of State Street and the downtown experience.

Should the city incentivize more housing projects in the downtown core, or get into the development business itself? Should business organizations work with property owners to curate more locally owned stores?

How can stakeholders work together to come up with innovative solutions for large properties like Macy’s in Paseo Nuevo and Saks OFF 5TH, which is vacating its store on State and Carrillo streets when its lease is up in the spring?

Have an idea? Have questions? Join the conversation in our reader-engagement platform, Noozhawk Asks.

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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