Tourist entertainment business exceeding expectations
Some strange vehicles are back on the road in Santa Barbara. These brightly colored buggies scooch around town, motors purring like a motorcycle but without the swagger of a Harley.
Santa Barbara tourists’ favorite attractions, like SB Buggie, are doing well as more guests land in the American Riviera.
Throughout the pandemic, daytrippers have ventured to Santa Barbara for short getaways. With the state open again, small businesses geared toward entertainment are busy.
Santa Barbara Adventure Company, which gives kayak and wine tours, has been “busier than we’ve ever seen it before,” said marketing manager Will Adams.
The business’s Channel Islands kayak tours are so popular that weekends are booked full a month in advance.
“A little bit beforehand too but ever since the June 15 reopening, we’ve definitely seen a huge uptick, we’re grateful and happy to say,” Mr. Adams told the News-Press.
Many customers are from Los Angeles and as far north as San Francisco, though he is also seeing out-of-state visitors as well.
“We’re just really happy and excited to see people getting back out, and the weather’s been nice. It’s made for some great kayaking,” he said.
Celebration Cruises, located at 237 Stearns Wharf, has a similar experience.
Kathy Hershman, vice president and owner of Celebration Cruises, says she rarely comes across a reservation without a California area code. In previous years, she’s met many travelers from out of state and those traveling internationally.
This year, she’s seen “very, very few” international visitors. Despite few far travelers, business is thriving.
“We actually have been really busy ever since we were able to open last May. People seem to feel more comfortable being out on the water,” she said.
Every cruise has been booked every single day, she said, which has never happened before.
She estimates that 2021’s numbers would match 2019’s had the business not closed for a couple months.
“We’ve been really lucky, and this year we are smashing all numbers,” she said.
Soon, Celebration Cruises’s rates will increase 10-15%. Prices haven’t gone up in a few years, so the owners plan to raise the cost as soon as they get new signs printed.
Ms. Hershman described this past weekend as “crazy busy,” with business aligned with 2019’s numbers.
The company offered a fireworks cruise Sunday, which quickly booked up.
“We were turning away people left and right, but that happens on every boat that does a Fourth of July cruise,” she said, noting all the cruises raised their rates that night.
But she wonders if the Independence Day crowds might raise COVID-19 case rates with the Delta variant spreading, saying she will continue to take precautions.
SB Buggie, at 120 E Yanonali Street in the Funk Zone, isn’t quite back to normal business numbers but has had some busy weekends lately.
Bill Rea, owner of SB Buggie, expected a lot of visitors for the Fourth but ended up having a better day Monday. Road closures near his business might have steered traffic away from his business Sunday.
Memorial Day was busy for him, and he is optimistic about business this summer.