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Boost For Santa Barbara Tourism As Demand For Travel Rises After Pandemic Losses

Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara

It’s been a challenging 16 months for the travel industry on the Central and South Coasts as a result of the pandemic, but tourism officials say business is increasing

On Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara, aside from the occasional facemask, you’d hardly know there is a pandemic. It’s busy, even on a weekday, with tourists enjoying an ice-cream and a stroll.

Many are visiting from elsewhere in California, drawn by the favorable climate and plentiful activities.

The boost in visitors is more than just green shoots of growth, says Santa Barbara’s tourism chief.

Kathy Janega-Dykes from Visit Santa Barbara says demand to travel is high after being pent up for so long during the coronavirus pandemic.

"After months of counting our loss, we are finally starting to see some recovering and optimistic about this summer season," she told KCLU.

"We're not quite there yet but we are working towards that recovery. We still have a way to go."

Visit Santa Barbara is making the largest paid media purchase in their history – to advertise to tourists looking for a place to go this summer, and hoping that it pays off.

She says that although there’s plenty for high-end hotels and affluent travelers in Santa Barbara, hotels for those of us on a budget are also finding an uptick in visitor numbers.

Warren Nocon, the Managing Director of Hotel Californian in Santa Barbara, admits navigating the past year and a half has been hugely challenging for many in the travel industry, as visitor numbers dried up.

He had to make the "very difficult decision" to suspend operations at the hotel twice, in the past year.

"In Santa Barbara we were made for this," he told KCLU of the recovery from the pandemic.

"We are a drive destination, we are outdoors, people feel extremely safe coming here. "

Caroline joined KCLU in October 2020. She won LA Press Club's Audio Journalist of the Year Award in 2022 and 2023.

Since joining the station she's won 7 Golden Mike Awards, 4 Los Angeles Press Club Awards and 2 National Arts & Entertainment Awards.

She started her broadcasting career in the UK, in both radio and television for BBC News, 95.8 Capital FM and Sky News and was awarded the Prince Philip Medal for her services to radio and journalism in 2007.

She has lived in California for ten years and is both an American and British citizen - and a very proud mom to her daughter, Elsie.