SB airport almost breaks record for passenger count
Tuesday’s highly anticipated reopening of California brings flexibility unseen in over a year.
And that might just bring back the travel and tourism industry many businesses count on in Santa Barbara.
“(Tuesday) marks another milestone for the local hospitality and leisure industry as thousands whose livelihoods depend on travel celebrate a full reopening of businesses,” Kathy Janega-Dykes, president and CEO of Visit Santa Barbara, told the News-Press.
The improvement actually began before Tuesday. Travel increased as vaccinations reached the masses, so businesses had already begun what they hope to be a large rebound.
“We are fortunate that Santa Barbara has remained a sought out destination during the pandemic. Hotel demand and nightly rates continue to improve — both on weekends and during mid-week periods,” Ms. Janega-Dykes said.
On Friday, the Santa Barbara Airport almost broke its record for the number of passengers that traveled through its gates, with more than 1,800 passengers.
“We are anticipating in the next month that we might break 2,000, which would be our record high ever,” Angi Daus, SBA spokesperson, said.
The airport’s traffic hasn’t dipped below 1,000 passengers in over five weeks.
It’s continued to get busier lately, and people seem to be booking last-minute flights, Ms. Daus said.
Southwest’s first flight from Santa Barbara to San Diego just recently started to book up.
Most of Santa Barbara’s visitors are Californians on leisurely trips, Ms. Janega-Dykes noted. But hotels are starting to reschedule large meetings and conferences.
Rayanna Cole-Dombroski, independent consultant with Montecito Village Travel, is primarily booking vacations and is waiting for business travel to return.
She coordinated trips in-state for people during the pandemic but noticed more clients traveling out of state once vaccinated.
“It’s just a mix of everyone wanting to get away and go somewhere. It’s mostly people wanting to visit family they haven’t seen in a while,” she said.
The state’s reopening hasn’t made a difference for her clients, and destinations’ health and safety regulations seem to only affect travel decisions when the rules are drastic.
“Up until this point, people are more inclined to travel domestically and haven’t been too worried about where they’re going. That’s been going on for at least a month without worrying about what’s required,” she said.
Part of her job is preparing clients for destinations’ requirements, such as ensuring they get a COVID-19 test before visiting Hawaii.
She’s also assisted travelers that have booked international travel without realizing the country was not open yet.
Ms. Cole-Dombroski is taking the reopening cautiously.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” she said. “People really want to get back to normal, and they’re forgetting (the pandemic) is still here.”
Masks are still required in airports and airplanes, as mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration. Passengers must wear masks on public buses as well.
Large events that could become “super spreaders” will need proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
And businesses have the right to require masking and distancing.
The end of the state’s tiered reopening system is not yet the conclusion to the economic problems, but it does signify a rebound to many business owners.