Santa Barbarans continue to stay home for holidays
The Santa Barbara Municipal Airport is calm this holiday season, a rarity for December, according to airport spokeswoman Deanna Zachrisson.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the airport has operated at 30% of its usual business.
“We are expecting a lot less travel for the holiday season than we saw in 2019,” she said. “It’s definitely slow, and this typically is a busy time of the year.”
She expects travel to be especially low during January and February, a typically slow season.
Business-related travel is down 85%, she said. She predicts that most travelers are flying to see family.
“We’re doing everything in our facility with our mask requirements, cleaning requirements, et cetera,” she said. “We are prepared for those that will be traveling with the precautions we are taking.”
The state of California issued a travel advisory and encourages Californians to avoid non-essential travel.
The California Department of Public Health recommends those entering California or returning from travel to self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival.
“The folks that are traveling are taking every precaution that you would expect,” Ms. Zachrisson said. “From our perspective, it seems like everyone is being cautious.”
She thinks the airlines are being careful as well, stating, “You’ve never seen a cleaner aircraft.”
In its COVID-19 travel guidelines, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department advises travelers to be cautious but says the virus is unlikely to spread on airplanes.
“Because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on airplanes,” it says on the public health website.
Doug Shupe, spokesperson for AAA’s Southern California region, said 76% of Californians are expected to stay home for the holidays this year.
The Automobile Club released a travel forecast for the 12-day Christmas-New Year period. It expects travel by car to be down by more than 34% and air travel to decrease by at least 54% in Southern California.
For those that do travel, it recommends to carry ample personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer and minimize stops.
Karen Ensign, a local independent travel agent, has not booked holiday travel for her clients this year.
“I think the majority of the clients that I know about from my coworkers are staying put in Santa Barbara,” she said. “In terms of this year versus last year, I’d say it is a fraction of what it was.”
One client recently canceled a cruise set for May.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone avoid cruise ships although it’s no sail order for cruise ships expired Oct. 31. It issued a level four travel health notice which designates the highest risk of contracting COVID-19.