The cruise ship industry had an estimated $2.4 million economic impact on Santa Barbara last year, with more than 50,000 passengers visiting the city, according to a survey released Jan. 22 by Visit Santa Barbara. Of that, $280,000 went to the city in the form of passenger fees and sales tax.
Restaurants and retail businesses benefited the most, according to the survey, making up 30.5 percent and 29.2 percent of total spending, respectively. This is in line with the activities respondents said they participated in most: 65.7 percent shopped, 64.9 percent went sightseeing, and 42.7 percent indulged in dining.
“The cruise ship industry has proven vital to the Santa Barbara South Coast economy,” Visit Santa Barbara President and CEO Kathy Janega-Dykes said in a statement. “Cruise ships come during non-peak travel seasons — a time that is crucial to economic growth within our industry.”
The survey noted that 41 percent of the passengers who had never been to Santa Barbara before said they were likely to return within 24 months, which could lead to an additional $6.3 million in direct visitor spending. Of the first-time visitors, 96.4 percent said they were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with their visit.
The Cruise Ship Passenger Survey and Economic Impact Study, completed by contracted firm Destination Analysts, is based on more than 800 surveys from September and October, during which time 11 cruise ships and 26,136 passengers visited the city. The results were annualized across the 2013 calendar year.
During the economic downturn, the city of Santa Barbara saw an opportunity to encourage more cruise ship visits. Visit Santa Barbara partnered with the Waterfront Department, Santa Barbara Downtown Organization, Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce and Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District to develop a strategy to bring more cruise ships to the city and effectively provide services to the passengers.
Prior to 2011, only one or two cruise ships visited each year, with the exception of 2004 and 2009, which had four and three cruise ships, respectively. Visit Santa Barbara is continuing to work with cruise lines to expand their shore excursion offerings. Princesses Cruises recently contracted with six new companies for a total of eight excursion offers and will consider more in the future, according to the tourism organization.