City of Santa Barbara expects increase in tourism for weekend
While travel agencies don’t fully know the extent of visiting and traveling the region will see this holiday weekend, they know one thing for sure — it’ll be more than last year.
Bookings have been improving at South Coast hotels during the past month, with weekly occupancy averaging between 63% and 71%. Kathy Janega-Dykes, president and CEO of Visit Santa Barbara, said this past month has been “one of the strongest runs we’ve seen since last year.”
Memorial Day typically kicks off the summer season, and is Santa Barbara’s and the nation’s most popular time of year for travel. Regional hotel performance data isn’t available in advance, but bookings for this weekend locally are “hopeful for the first time in many months,” Ms. Janega-Dykes said.
“We’re expecting a much-improved turnout for the holiday weekend compared to last year’s Memorial Day weekend, when occupancy averaged only 46%,” the CEO told the News-Press. “It’s a little poignant to think back to that time, when just 46% weekend occupancy seemed like an achievement, since travel had been so dismal. It even dipped down to 13% weekly occupancy last spring.”
She added that local businesses are “heavily relying” on this weekend and the upcoming summer months to make up for the precipitous drop in travel the city saw over the past year.
“As hopeful as this is, the South Coast is still rebuilding mid-week travel, group and meetings travel, and visits from out-of-state residents, which are critical segments that have been missing,” Ms. Janega-Dykes said. “Visit Santa Barbara is marketing and advertising to these markets, now that vaccinations are more widespread and travel restrictions have lifted.”
The efforts to bring in out-of-state visitors will be boosted by the new flights from Southwest, along with Chicago service from United and San Diego service from Alaska Airlines launching next month. Visit Santa Barbara’s CEO said out-of-state visitors tend to stay longer and provide more economic benefits to local businesses.
Meanwhile, the Santa Barbara Airport is seeing a trend of hitting more than 1,500 passengers on the peak weekend days for the lsat few weekends — which meets the airport’s pre-pandemic average. Angi Daus, a spokesperson for the airport, said this weekend won’t be anything “too unexpectedly busier,” but on trend with growth over the past several weeks.
If the airport stays on trend, it could break 10,000 passengers in a week.
“One trend that is new to this time is the last-minute bookings are at a record high, which does result in some unpredictability, but again, we have a bit of a trend going and are ready for a busy and positive weekend ahead,” Ms. Daus told the News-Press.
She added that while “this is an exciting time,” change is happening every day, so she encouraged passengers to ensure they are fully informed of options.
“We’d just like to remind everyone that although our communities are opening up and we are moving around more, the airport has and will continue the mask mandate through September per FAA and TSA regulation,” Ms. Daus said. “Also, please know the processes at the airport are a little different than what you may remember pre-pandemic. So, please do arrive a bit earlier to ensure you have plenty of time to get through the process safely and with ease.”