Saturday, March 24 , 2018, 10:03 am | Fair 54º



Visit Santa Barbara Honors Three Recipients with First-Ever Destination Awards

Hundreds gather for the annual general meeting to talk innovation and successes

Tourism industry employees gather around a penguin “selfie stick” to take pictures of themselves Wednesday during Visit Santa Barbara’s annual meeting.
Tourism industry employees gather around a penguin “selfie stick” to take pictures of themselves Wednesday during Visit Santa Barbara’s annual meeting. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

Tourism is an important part of Santa Barbara County’s economy, and that fact was celebrated Wednesday during Visit Santa Barbara’s annual general meeting.

This year’s event at the Coral Casino in Montecito featured the tourism organization’s first-ever destination awards, recognizing locals who innovate, collaborate and elevate.

Hospitality and business leaders gathered with government officials for the luncheon, where Visit Santa Barbara President/CEO Kathy Janega-Dykes said tourism still seemed to be on the up-and-up.

Last year, tourism brought in $1.5 billion locally, she said, with rising occupancy rates and more travelers visiting during the off-season of November through March.

“We gather to remember the importance of travel,” Janega-Dykes said. “Places have emotional connections for all of us. Now it’s driven by experiences.”

Before introducing new Visit Santa Barbara board chair Gwen Stauffer, who is executive director of Lotusland, Janega-Dykes highlighted the success of the organization’s “Brighten Your Day” campaign, which entailed sending community members to places such as Seattle and giving away Santa Barbara-centric gifts.

Hoping to build on that momentum, she said, staff will launch the “I Shine in Santa Barbara” initiative, asking people what makes them shine while they’re here.

Four innovation-inducing ingredients include pursuing your passion, knowing what you believe, having the courage to act on it, and embracing change, according to event keynote speaker Stuart Jenkins, vice president of innovation at Goleta’s Deckers Brands.

Jenkins found his passion — footwear — at a young age as an avid distance runner.

Now with more than 35 years of experience as an entrepreneur in that industry, Jenkins said he remains as relentless as ever. 

“You will never innovate if you conform,” he said. “When you’re innovating, do not expect the crowd to stand up and say good for you. You must change if you’re going to innovate.”

The business itself doesn’t have to change, Jenkins said, but the way you do business does.

“Innovation is not what you do, it’s who you are,” he said.

Not surprisingly, those characteristics were found in the three destination award winners.

They were Marge Cafarelli of the Santa Barbara Public Market, Tara Jones of Eat This, Shoot That! and Sherry Villanueva, proprietor of The Lark restaurant, Lucky Penny, Les Merchands and Santa Barbara Wine Collective.

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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