Santa Ynez Valley plans for a resurging economy after slowdown during disasters

Business leaders have many social media messages

Los Olivos and other Santa Ynez Valley communities are ready for an economic resurgence for the summer after impacts from regional disasters. photo: John Palminteri/
SANTA YNEZ VALLEY, Calif. - Santa Ynez Valley business owners,  especially those in the tourism industry, have their game plan set to bring visitors back to the  area especially after two disasters in the South County.

"The challenge is to get people here, absolutely," said Chad Melville from Melville winery. "The fires, the mudslides, the rain,  the 101 being closed was a huge detriment."   Earlier this year and late in 2017 back to back disasters in the Santa Barbara, Montecito, Carpinteria and Ventura areas disasters impacted tourism, travel and the local economy.
That's when the Thomas fire sent fire and ash throughout the area of the major route to the valley, Highway 101 as part of its massive burn zone.   It was followed by the Montecito mudflow that shut the highway down for about a week and a half.   Millions of dollars of revenue to the area was lost, according to tourism industry experts, not just in the Santa Barbara area but also in the Santa Ynez valley and San Luis Obispo County.

The General Manager of the Landsby Hotel in Solvang, Barry Prescott says he sees some bright signs ahead.  "We are still attracting locals, Santa Barbara and Santa Maria,  definitely L.A. on weekends. This is a very big wedding destination so we are doing a lot of wedding blocks and group business."   He sees a recovery with some of the traditional customers along with a return of more European and East Coast visitors.
At the Visit Santa Ynez Valley annual meeting a two minute video highlighting the area was played.  A portion of it will be converted into a TV commercial.   The web page has been a gateway to hotels, restaurants and activities in the Santa Ynez Valley along with many social media outlets.  "I think all businesses rely on social media,  we can see by how its grown over the last couple of years," said Prescott.
The meeting was held at Hotel Corque in Solvang and those attending networked on tourism ideas for the months ahead.

Executive Director Shelby Sim presented those attending with an array of information about impressions the valley has had in magazines, newspapers, radio, TV, and social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and twitter.   He pointed out the hashtags that move their message forward and attract attention to the area from guests with comments and pictures.  Each table also had information about a new poll to gain comments from visitors as part of a contest to win a two night stay in the valley.  The poll is conducted on

"I think the resurgence of our summer will be the key because people were definitely down when the roads were closed," said VisitSVY Board President Linda Johansen.  "This  is our busy time so we will definitely recoup a little bit now."

Front line employees will also be going through special seminars to learn about the area.  Johansen says, " the key is they have to experience it.   To try to get them into all of those experiences.  Get our front liners into our bars, into the tasting rooms and  get them into the stores.  To get them knowledgeable about what the valley has to offer because it is so diverse."

The popularity of the Funk Zone tasting rooms in Santa Barbara have also had an impact.  Currently there are in excess of 25 tasting sites in the city, and some of those guests never make it over the hill to the valley.   Winemakers say however, there are two distinctively different experiences with the valley offering a full size tasting room, winemakers, working vineyard operations and often a place to enjoy a picnic on the property.

"There's a different vibe up here and I think it is one of those things that people cherish," said Melville.  "Once we can get them there,  then the rest is the magic because you have an opportunity to see the vines and walk through and meet the people that are there. "   
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