With Southwest Airlines flights set to soar out of Santa Barbara Municipal Airport in April, the airline is offering low introductory rates for its new destinations.
On Thursday, the airline announced new routes, beginning in mid-April, from Santa Barbara to Las Vegas, Denver and Oakland. Tickets are already on sale, with tickets to Las Vegas and Oakland as low as $39 one way and tickets to Denver as low as $69 one way.
Deanna Zachrisson, airport development manager for Santa Barbara Airport, said a flight to Las Vegas for $39 is a bargain and about as “bottom of the barrel” as prices get.
Officials are anticipating an uptick in tourism as a result of the new Southwest service once the COVID-19 vaccine is more widely distributed and customers feel it is safe to travel again.
“There is such a pent up demand for travel right now, so we do expect to see our customers return to Santa Barbara once they are permitted to do so,” Kathy Janega-Dykes, president and CEO of Visit Santa Barbara, told the News-Press.
Southwest serviced more than 130 million customers in 2019, according to company data, and Santa Barbara officials are hopeful that tapping into the airlines’ customer base will bring a much needed boost to the local economy.
Ms. Janega-Dykes is optimistic that the low, introductory fares will allow tourists to spend more of their travel funds in the Santa Barbara business and hospitality community.
Since last March, when the COVID-19 pandemic restricted air travel across the U.S., Santa Barbara Municipal Airport saw a 70% dip in travel. According to Ms. Zachrisson, the large decrease in travel is not exclusive to Santa Barbara as virtually every airport in the country is seeing the effects of the virus.
With President Joe Biden’s broad vaccine rollout expected to take shape in the next few weeks, local officials believe travel to and from Santa Barbara could be on the up and up once again.
“We’re poised for a recovery,” Ms. Zachrisson said. “We are hoping that (recovery) is around the corner, and we’re hoping that is really just the start. As life starts to return to normal, people will have reasons to travel, and Southwest will be there as demand grows.”
In mid-June 2020, Santa Barbara’s hospitality industry saw a small comeback when hotels in the area were allowed to reopen to leisure customers after previous limits only allowed hotels to accommodate essential workers.
According to Ms. Janega-Dykes, Santa Barbara was an “appealing destination” for leisure travelers over the summer due to the city’s many “wide open spaces” in beaches and in parks.
With the announcement of the new Southwest routes going in and out of Santa Barbara, 23 local hotels and inns chose to extend a “third night free” promotion, which initially began in September 2020, through June 2021. When travelers book two nights at participating hotels, they will receive a third night free.
A complete list of participating hotels is available at santabarbaraca.com/places-to-stay/santa-barbara-savvy.