Vacationing here instead of there
Palm trees, beaches, architecture and, of course, the culinary scene of Santa Barbara attract visitors from around the world to the beachtown at the foot of the Santa Ynez Mountains. With these tourists come their dollars, Euros, and Yuans.
More than 100 local and state leaders in the tourism industry gathered at the Montecito Club to strategize on how to bring more tourists and wallets to Santa Barbara.
A big driver in the local tourism scene is Visit Santa Barbara, a nonprofit that works with travel agents, tour operators and international travel wholesalers to market Santa Barbara and its unique features. This organization put together the event that gathered folks Wednesday at the country club.
The 2019 Fall Tourism Summit began with a networking event, where hoteliers, outdoor activities providers and several other travel business leaders mingled. After folks have broken the ice, the microphone was brought out, with VSB President and CEO Kathy Janega-Dykes on it to welcome the crowd. While on the stage, Ms. Janega-Dykes also took the time to highlight the national media coverage that Santa Barbara has garnered recently. She described them as recent successes of the company, but receiving attention in the media and social media as a tourism destination seems to take work.
Director of Communications Karna Hughes said during a panel discussion that there is a misconception that Santa Barbara sells itself. As beautiful and unique as Santa Barbara is, VSB shows that tourists do not magically appear on State Street. There is a whole mechanism to marketing Santa Barbara in the eyes of those shopping a destination for their next vacation. Other panelists explained the role they play in ensuring that the city at the foot of the Santa Ynez Mountains receives more and more visitors.
Director of Sales Beth Olson explained to the audience about the “financial carrot” that incentivizes planners to bring Santa Barbara to the table when talking with clients. Meanwhile, Vice President of Strategic Planning and Marketing James Minton broke down the numbers of hotel occupancy and revenue generated by rooms.
For the past five years, Santa Barbara South Coast Tourism Business Improvement District hotels have seen an average decline of occupancy rates, but there has also been an increase of rooms available associated with the decline. Gross rooms revenue of the hotels has seen an overall increase over the past five years, and for 2019, this figure was $372 million.
Director of Digital Marketing & Content Development JessyLynn Perkins also walked the audience through the techniques of modern day marketing. Navigating the digital terrain of social media and the nonprofit’s website, Ms. Perkins shared that she works with influencers to promote Santa Barbara.
Influencers recommend items on their social media page, which typically has a significant amount of followers. Ms. Perkins told Wednesday’s audience, however, that she prefers to work with “micro-influencers,” which she defined as having five to 20,000 followers. With micro-influencers, said Ms. Perkins, an employer avoids the diva-esque attitude of super influencers while ensuring quality work for a better price.
Overall, the panelists’ discussion shed some light on the process behind bringing tourists to Santa Barbara. The VSB team’s work is in accordance with a long-term plan of the umbrella nonprofit Visit California.
“It works when we’re focused with a long-term plan,” said Visit California President and CEO Caroline Beteta. “That’s the secret sauce.”Travel businesses in California will get to vote in December if they want to continue funding that secret sauce. The last voting was in 2013, and more than 90 percent of votes were cast in favor of the statewide marketing program. More details on the referendum can be found on https://vote.visitcalifornia.com/voting-information/voting-faq.