Tourism leaders making emotional connection with visitors

New marketing underway for the region

300 guests attended the annual Visit Santa Barbara General Meeting at the Rosewood Miramar Beach Wednesday to get an update on the marketing plans ahead.  (John Palminteri/

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Tourism leaders in Santa Barbara are hoping to create an emotional connection with visitors this year.

They have launched a brand message with a theme of “Transformative Journeys.”   

It comes at a time when the area has seen new hotels, unique neighborhood promotions, and an array of one-of-a-kind restaurants.

Visit Santa Barbara President/CEO Kathy Janega-Dykes says there are many stories to tell about Santa Barbara and the surrounding areas. In some cases, one new location or dining destination can bring a wave of new business directly and indirectly to the region.

The annual general meeting and tourism celebration took place Wednesday at the newly opened Rosewood Miramar Beach. Many of those attending were there for the first time. They strolled the grounds and looked at the ocean views, restaurants, cottages and then they were seated in the main ball room where about 300 guests took part in the luncheon.

It opened with a three-minute video promoting the new "Santa Barbara Effect." The message is an emotional connection for those planning to come to the area for the first time or who have been here before, "and really tell them what is different about here and how they will feel once they get to this destination," said Janega-Dykes. It can also be a video memory of some of the places and activities they took part in.     

The video shows dining, surfing, biking, entertainment, festivals, aerial shots, wine country, horseback riding on the beach, local fishermen, historic landmarks, families, and classic views from the mountains to the ocean.

The video can be viewed here.

Economic studies show direct visitor related spending per year is $1.9 billion. Total visitors per year is 7.2 million, which equates to 28,884 visitors a day

The area is in a recovery from the back-to-back disasters starting with the Thomas fire in 2017 followed by the Montecito Mudflow in January of 2018. Both were deadly and destroyed properties. The impacts to the region ranging from the freeway closure to the national attention about the disasters were economically devastating. That's all the more reason the tourism industry is working to reenergize the traveling public to come to the area.

"We all pulled together to tell the world that Santa Barbara is open for business and it certainly has worked," said Janega-Dykes.

Ramada Santa Barbara General Manager Tom Patton said, "We still have aways to go but it is better now than where we were 12-18 months ago. We've got a great story to tell, we've gotten rain, the reservoirs are filling up the hills are beautiful."  

Along with the disasters, the area had been in seven years of drought and water conservation efforts changed the look of the landscaping in some locations. It also left landmark sites such as the Dolphin Fountain at the foot of Stearns Wharf dry.

Recently there's been renewed coverage in the press including the New York Times, Travel + Leisure Forbes, AFAR, and Conde' Nast Traveler.

Patton also gave credit to the front line workers who he said were Ambassadors for the area. 

"They are selling our brand, they are selling our destination, and we want to give them a reason to come back and do everything they didn't do the first time around," he said. 

Overall industry leaders say more than 13,000 jobs are supported by tourism

Visit Santa Barbara also welcomed incoming and renewing board members, including Warren Nocon, managing director of Hotel Californian; Colleen Huther, general manager of Belmond El Encanto; Dan Glaeser, senior vice president and senior credit manager of Montecito Bank & Trust; Michael Cohen, owner of Santa Barbara Adventure Company; Dr. Robin Gose, Ed.D., CEO/president of MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation; Richard Nahas, general manager of Glenn Annie Golf Club; and Chris Inman, general manager of Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort. 

Existing Visit Santa Barbara board members who will remain on the board include Skip Abed, owner of Santa Barbara Sailing Center; Rick Boller, executive director of the Santa Barbara Bowl; Barry Dorsey, general manager of The Kimpton Goodland Hotel; Craig Forbus, general manager of Hyatt Centric Santa Barbara; Katie Grassini, CEO of Grassini Family Vineyards; Aaron Ide, resort manager of Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara; Kristen Miller, president/CEO of the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce; Gwen Stauffer, CEO/executive director of Ganna Walska Lotusland; Luke Swetland, president/CEO of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History; Sherry Villanueva, managing partner of Acme Hospitality; and Kristen Weidemann, general manager of Paseo Nuevo Shops & Restaurants. Tom Patton, general manager of Ramada Santa Barbara, will continue as board chairman, and Roberto van Geenen, general manager of The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara will continue as vice chairman.

Outgoing members  include Ed Galsterer, general manager of Santa Barbara Inn, and Tara Jones Haaf, owner of Eat This, Shoot That!

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