Visit Santa Barbara recognizes businesses, employees for their sanitation and health efforts
During the COVID-19 pandemic, positive news is always welcome.
And Visit Santa Barbara has gotten involved in positivity with its Hospitality Heroes Award program.
The program, a weekly award that started on July 13 and will be ending Aug. 10, was created to recognize hospitality business employees, and sometimes the businesses themselves, around Santa Barbara for their successful implementation of safety protocols during the pandemic.
“Protecting the health and safety of our community and our visitors is our top priority. We wanted to acknowledge local hospitality workers that are going above and beyond to promote and implement responsible programs and practices among their co-workers, customers and the community,” Kathy Janega-Dykes, CEO/president of Visit Santa Barbara, told the News-Press via email.
“Many local businesses and their employees have invested a lot of time and energy to modify their operations and implement safety protocols. We want to recognize some of them.”
Weekly winners receive a certificate of recognition, a $100 gift card and are put in a drawing to win the grand prize at the end of the program — a Santa Barbara staycation at a local resort.
Past winners include sanitation captain Luis Garcia from Acme Hospitality, general manager Kacey House from Acme Hospitality, mask maker Pamme Mikelson from the Goleta Valley Historical Society, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s fully redesigned trail system and Paseo Nuevo for its efforts to keep all stakeholders safe.
“The past four weeks, all winners have been extremely gracious and modest after being informed of their awards,” Ms. Janega-Dykes said.
“These heroes are individuals and businesses that don’t do this for recognition, but we are thankful that we can play a small part in expressing our gratitude to them.”
The mission of Visit Santa Barbara is to inspire overnight travel to the Santa Barbara South Coast to enhance the community’s economy and quality of life.
On a normal year, annual spending by travelers to the South Coast totals more than $1.9 billion, supporting more than 13,000 jobs and generating more than $56 million in yearly tax revenue
However, due to the current pandemic, travel and tourism has taken quite an impact and, according to Ms. Janega-Dykes, hotel occupancy is down 30% from this time last year.
“The coronavirus has severely impacted South Coast hospitality businesses and attractions, resulting in layoffs, furloughs and massive financial losses, as well as permanent business closures, throughout the region,” she said.
She also noted efforts by hospitality businesses and their employees to ensure everyone’s safety.
“Our workers play a vital role in helping to communicate and carry out standards that protect the health and safety of our community, workforce and visitors. In this time when COVID-19 has created many challenges, thousands of local workers are performing small and large acts of everyday heroism,” Ms. Janega-Dykes said.
“Whether on the frontlines as they politely interact with customers, or behind the scenes as they ensure rooms are safely sanitized or dream up new programs, there are countless examples of workers who are doing the right thing to keep everyone safe.”
During this time Visit Santa Barbara is doing everything it can to also inform travelers. The nonprofit has been encouraging safe and healthy travel through its website, santabarbaraca.com, and its social media.
The website also contains a healthy traveler guide with tips and itineraries for outdoor dining and socially distant excursions.
Visit SB is also constantly working with local businesses and their employees to make sure everyone is staying safe and making creative solutions as everyone is learning to adapt to the new normal COVID-19 has brought us.
“Hospitality businesses are extremely hard working and passionate, they care greatly for their staff and customers and, from what we’ve seen, are doing everything they can to make their establishment a safe and healthy one. We see, time and time again, countless examples of business owners, employees, and guests, both on the frontlines and behind the scenes, really stepping up and coming together,” Ms. Janega-Dykes said.
And, while revenue is down, there are still some glimmers of hope. Just this week, hotel occupancy is up 5% from the week before.
Additionally, while people are seeing that life will not just return to normal anytime soon, they are also pivoting to doing more outdoor activities that are away from other people as to not spread the virus.
Still, what keeps Ms. Janega-Dykes optimistic is the toughness this city has shown in the past to bounce back.
“If there is anything we have learned from these past few years, it’s that Santa Barbara is resilient,” Ms. Janega-Dykes said.
“We are also in a good position for recovery. We have wide open spaces, a beautiful waterfront, wonderful nature opportunities and businesses that know how to adapt. Our goal is to stimulate the return of responsible, overnight visitors as much as we can and support our hard-hit businesses, realizing that in the near term, it’s unlikely our hotels will see a return on par with last year’s occupancy levels.
“At the same time, we’ll continue to closely monitor conditions on the ground and continue to be a good partner to our health officials and the community at large.”