Monday, November 12 , 2018, 2:40 pm | Fair 74º

 
 
 
 
Advice

Travel Outlook Shows Santa Barbara Area Tourism Expected to Grow into 2016

Visit Santa Barbara event hosts Visit California CEO, releases industry forecast

Visit California President & CEO Caroline Beteta spoke during the 2016 Travel Outlook Wednesday at the Four Seasons Biltmore in Santa Barbara.
Visit California President & CEO Caroline Beteta spoke during the 2016 Travel Outlook Wednesday at the Four Seasons Biltmore in Santa Barbara. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

Demand for hotels is at an all-time high nationwide and in Santa Barbara County, with occupancy rates setting records every month this year except October.

Tourism is still on the up-and-up, a trend that should continue into 2016, according to the Travel Outlook presented Wednesday by Visit Santa Barbara.

The tourism organization drew more than 100 hospitality-industry folks and city and county leaders to the Four Seasons Biltmore for the annual forecast, this year titled “Strategies for the Future.”

“It’s really essential that we work closely together,” Visit Santa Barbara president & CEO Kathy Janega-Dykes said. “The general consensus is that we’re seeing significant growth. Millenials continue to lead resurgence in travel.”

With growth comes upheaval, she said, mainly from technology changing the way visitors travel.

Most bookings are made on mobile devices, which is also how travelers make dining and other choices, said Janega-Dykes, who celebrated her organization’s strong branding campaign.

Visit California president & CEO Caroline Beteta gave a presentation on how to better connect with the statewide tourism organization, which has helped California become the No. 1 state of choice to visit, competing more with Australia or countries in Europe for leisure travelers.

“I’m proud of Santa Barbara for what you generate,” Beteta said. “It’s all about dollars, frankly. It’s a great time to be in the industry. We are a global destination. We are fortunate to be blessed with an embarrassment of riches.”

Tourism will bring in $118 billion statewide this year, another $9.3 billion in state and local tax revenue, and 1 million direct jobs, she said, noting a 2.3-percent growth overall from 2014.

Santa Barbara Airport Director Hazel Johns, center, answers questions during a 2016 Travel Outlook panel, alongside Santa Barbara Waterfront Director Scott Riedman and Downtown Santa Barbara Executive Director Maggie Campbell. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara Airport Director Hazel Johns, center, answers questions during a 2016 Travel Outlook panel, alongside Santa Barbara Waterfront Director Scott Riedman and Downtown Santa Barbara Executive Director Maggie Campbell. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

Hotel demand is soaring above expectations, and 2016 looks like much of the same, according to a South Coast Lodging Forecast from Valerie Woods, director of business development for hotels for Smith Travel Research.

“I don’t have any bad news today,” she said. “I only have good news numbers.”

Occupancy will finish the year at 77 percent in Santa Barbara, an increase of more than 4 percentage points from last year, Woods said.

The city saw all-time high occupancies every month but October, the latter partially due to the Sandman Inn closing in March but also because of a 12-percent spike in October 2014 — possibly because a business had employees booking hotels on weekdays.

Goleta’s occupancy rate saw the biggest jump, up 15.6 percent from 2014 to 82.4 percent — the highest overall and largest increase in the county.

Woods said that rate would likely level off or dip slightly in 2016, predicting a higher average daily rate and revenue per room across the board.

“We don’t collect data from short-term rentals or AirBnb,” she said, having been asked to speak on the topic.

Woods did say the vacation rentals might finally be getting more attractive to business travelers, with AirBnB in particular about to launch a frequent-stay program.

The event concluded with a brief panel discussion titled, “Santa Barbara Infrastructure: Renewing, Revamping, and Progress,” featuring Santa Barbara Airport Director Hazel Johns, Downtown Santa Barbara Executive Director Maggie Campbell and Santa Barbara Waterfront Director Scott Riedman.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff 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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