Economists can argue all day about the precise end of this recession, but in the travel and tourism sector, the tri-county region’s biggest private industry, the numbers point very clearly to the spring of 2010.
Even for hoteliers who remember the post-Sept. 11 slump, 2009 was one of the most relentlessly horrible years in memory. Base room revenues in the city of Santa Barbara, for example, plummeted by 20 percent between June 2008 and June 2009, according to the city’s transient occupancy tax collections.
But the latest hotel tax figures from across the region indicate a widespread, though modest, turnaround. With the 2010 tourist season now underway, hotel owners and tourism officials say they are seeing some of 2009’s lost customers start to return.