February 7, 2023
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Editorial: Tourist season puts region in strong spot


Savor the Central Coast gets underway at the end of the month, nicely punctuating a comeback year for the region’s tourism industry.

It is hard to imagine that just a few months ago the season kicked off with the Amgen Tour of California, where Chris Horner of Team RadioShack won the May event.

Then came a flood of European visitors, a visit from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, a better-than-ever Citrus Classic Balloon Festival, rebounding revenue and hotel bookings, and a  comeback year for Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days.

The Ventura County Fair turned in respectable attendance and amid everything, the Bacara Resort & Spa was sold to a new and far more community-minded owner.
Savor, a production of Sunset magazine and featuring Publisher Peter Medwig in attendance, is in its second year. Whether the economics are as strong as the optics of the event is anybody’s guess.

But with events such as the Medwig-led kayak and paddleboard tour of Morro Bay, including a visit to an oyster farm, this event is advancing the niche-oriented, eco-friendly tourism approach that is garnering worldwide attention.

It’s easy to forget that twice in the past decade, the travel and tourism business, a critically important one for our region, has been torn asunder by global events. The Sept. 11 attacks brought aviation to a halt and upended plans  for millions of travelers. In the aftermath, the entire tourism industry took a deep breath and recalculated the cost and disruptiveness of aviation security.

Then came the financial crisis of 2008 and a deep dive in the travel and tourism business, especially for middle-to upper-market destinations such as the Central Coast. As the crisis fades into the rear view mirror, room rates remain far below previous levels. And as individuals and governments contemplate a period of austerity, free-wheeling spending on wine and restaurants is not what it once was.

But everybody likes a good time. And there’s no better place to have one than on the Central Coast. Which is why large scale events like Savor and the Amgen Tour are introducing a new generation to the delights of our region. Those introductions will build lifetime relationships.