Santa Barbara ready to welcome back international visitors
Santa Barbara is preparing for an exciting holiday season with the return of international visitors.
The U.S. fully opened its borders Monday after more than a year and a half, allowing nonessential travel to the states.
Vaccinated tourists from the likes of Mexico, Canada and Europe are now able to enter the country by land or by air. International visitors traveling by air are required to be fully vaccinated and have a negative COVID-19 test while anyone crossing land borders must only show proof of vaccination.
Airlines are increasing flights, predicting an influx of travel as the travel ban relaxes. According to the traveling data source Cirium, flights between the U.S. and Britain are predicted to increase 21% this month.
In anticipation of Monday’s announcement, Kathy Janega-Dykes, president and CEO of Visit Santa Barbara, told the News-Press she and her team prepared for the non-native guests this holiday season.
“Visit Santa Barbara has been attending international trade shows and promoting our city to a few key international media targets in preparation for this month’s announcement,” Mrs. Janega-Dykes said Monday.
The percentage of international visitors fell from about 15% to less than one percent, Mrs. Janega-Dykes told the News-Press. So, though a massive influx of people is not expected, the lifted restrictions will, “allow a slow improvement for key international markets.”
Though the impact of COVID-19 on hospitality industries is obvious, Mrs. Janega-Dykes maintains that tourism in Santa Barbara County is still strong. “Even with the loss of nearly all international travelers, coupled with steep declines in business and meeting travel, the region’s leisure and hospitality industry is performing well,” noted Mrs. Janega-Dykes.
She told the News-Press that South Coast hotel demand was only down 5% in the past four-week period.
With these encouraging numbers and the promise of international travelers, Visit Santa Barbara is preparing for a more successful holiday season this year.
“Compared to other vacation destinations in the state, the South Coast’s recovery continues to outpace our competitors,” Mrs. Janega-Dykes said. “While we are experiencing seasonal slowing that will likely continue through Thanksgiving, we continue to hover near pre-pandemic levels of occupancy.”
Trans-Atlantic flights are expected to rise exponentially by December, allowing for more travelers during a peak tourism season.
“We hope families who may have missed time together last year are able to reunite this season in Santa Barbara and resume beloved traditions,” said Mrs. Janega-Dykes.
Mrs. Janega-Dykes noted that the marketing group’s predictions for tourism continue to be “positively surpassed,” and she anticipates a successful holiday season.