For nearly six weeks people around the world and around the country saw, and heard reports about the threat, and destruction caused by the Thomas Fire, and southern Santa Barbara County flooding.
While cleanup and recovery efforts continue, those images have stuck in some people’s minds, not a good thing for a region which relies on tourism. The tourism industry effort is working to counter those perceptions, with a major marketing campaign.
Tom Patton, who’s General Manager/Partner at Ramada Santa Barbara says while the media did a good job of covering the twin disasters, they were images which stuck with people. But, he says it’s frustrating that every time there’s a followup story, many of those same images get replayed on TV. Patton says his hotel still gets calls from tourists wanting to know in Santa Barbara is okay to visit.
Tourism officials are working hard to change the lingering perceptions people might not want to visit because of the twin disasters. Kathy Janega-Dykes is President, and CEO of Visit Santa Barbara, the non-profit organization which markets the region to tourists. She says they had a marketing campaign in the works before the disasters hit, which was changed mid-stream to try to better address the concerns among potential visitors.
And, like Las Vegas, another prime tourism destination which had to deal with image issues after its country musical festival shooting, Visit Santa Barbara came up with a marketing tagline, “Santa Barbara Shines.” \
The true test of the South Coast’s ability to overcome the images of fire, and flood is about to come. We’re just weeks away from high tourism season, when motels and hotels are often booked solid. Gwen Stauffer, with Lotusland, the iconic Montecito gardens which are a popular tourist destination, is optimistic.
Janega-Dykes says since they launched the “Santa Barbara Shines” campaign, it’s generated more than 32 million impressions with people through everything ranging from digital billboard to radio ads.