July 15, 2024
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Visitor-related spending totaled $2.2B in Santa Barbara County’s South Coast


Kathy Janega-Dykes, president and CEO of Visit Santa Barbara, speaks at the nonprofit’s 2024 Tourism Summit. (Mike Harris / PCBT Staff)

Visitor-related spending in Santa Barbara County’s South Coast region was $2.24 billion in the last quarter of 2022 and the first three quarters of 2023, a market research firm managing director said at Visit Santa Barbara’s latest Tourism Summit on Jan. 17.

There were 6.5 million visitors to the region, 96% of whom said it was a highly satisfactory experience, 36% stayed overnight and 80% said they’ll return, Dave Bratton, founder of San Francisco-based Future Partners, told the audience at the Cabrillo Pavilion in Santa Barbara.

“The economic impact to the South Coast is a very large one,
Bratton told the Business Times following the 2024 tourism program, at which he was the keynote speaker.

“The data I presented shows a profound effect,” Bratton said. “A lot of people spending a lot of money and supporting jobs and tax revenues and all that.”

Nonprofit Visit Santa Barbara promotes overnight travel to the South Coast region, which includes Santa Barbara, Goleta, Montecito, Summerland, and unincorporated Santa Barbara County between Gaviota and Summerland.

Other data presented by Bratton included:

• Direct visitor spending was $1.14 billion by those who stayed in hotels/motels/inns, $357 million by those who visited friends/relatives, $440 million by those who were day trip visitors, and $297 million by those who stayed in other places such as short term rentals or campgrounds.

• Taxes generated for South Coast governments were $82.9 million.

• The primary reason for visiting the region was vacation (29%), getaway weekend (23%), visiting friends and/or relatives (12%), business travel (10%), attended a festival or community event (2%), attended a wedding (2%), conference, trade show or another group meeting (1%), and other personal travel (20%).

• The top five activities or attractions visitors included in their stays were restaurant dining (68%), State Street Promenade (53%), shopping (43%), Stearns Wharf (31%), and beaches (29%).

• The top five areas where visitors came from were Los Angeles (37%), Santa Maria/San Luis Obispo (10%), the Bay Area (7%), Seattle-Tacoma (4%), and Sacramento/Stockton/Modesto (3%).

The data was based on interviews with 1,700 visitors to the South Coast region, Bratton said.

The data was then reweighted and flowed into the firm’s economic impact model, which calculated such things as direct spending, jobs supported and taxes generated, he said.

Kathy Janega-Dykes, president and CEO of Visit Santa Barbara, told the summit that “our greatest assets are our guests.

“They return year after year by referrals, word of mouth plus the pristine beauty of our community,” she said.