Visitor numbers on the rise in Santa Barbara

Feb 24, 2014

Downtown Santa Barbara and its harbor.
Credit Flickr member Damian Gadal

The amount of money spent at local lodging facilities in the City of Santa Barbara saw its largest increase in several years last month with a significant 23.8 percent bump. 

This year-over-year increase in visitor spending helped generate $991,834 in revenue for the city through its 12 percent Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), the vast majority of which goes into the general fund. A smaller portion of the TOT is set aside for creek restoration and water quality improvements.

While the jump in revenue follows a nearly year-long trend for local visitor spending at hotels, motels, inns, and other commercial lodging facilities, January's exceptional double-digit rise may partially be explained by the month's record warmth and sunny skies.

"This unusually strong growth is likely driven by the continued great weather conditions," said Santa Barbara Treasury Manager Genie Wilson. "There was also an additional weekend day in this month relative to last year."

"In speaking with our hotel partners, they feel the weather was the biggest driver for the uptick in January business ," said Visit Santa Barbara's Director of Communications Michelle Rodriguez. "Although Santa Barbara does see most of its visitors coming from drive markets, hoteliers were seeing an increase in East Coast and International visitors, who were escaping harsher winters."

Rodriguez also notes an increase in disposable incomes due to the ongoing economic recovery.

Even if January's large revenue jump is an anomaly, the first seven months of the city's fiscal year has exceeded TOT revenue expectations with more than $9.8 million collected, up 13.1 percent from the same 2012-13 period.  City leaders had expected a rise of only 10.4 percent.