Inaugural Destination Awards Launched at Visit Santa Barbara’s Annual General Meeting

Three hospitality businesses take home the Innovation – Collaboration – Elevation Award
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Jaime Shaw, Communications Manager
Visit Santa Barbara
805.966.9222 x107, [email protected]

Karna Hughes, Director of Communications
Visit Santa Barbara
805.966.9222 x112, [email protected]


Three hospitality businesses take home the Innovation – Collaboration – Elevation Award

Santa Barbara, CA (May 7, 2015) On Wed., May 6, Visit Santa Barbara held its Annual General Meeting at the Coral Casino and bestowed its first-ever Destination Awards. Part of National Travel & Tourism Week, celebrated nationwide May 2 to 10, the annual event recognizes the hospitality industry and the vital importance of travel and tourism to the economy, jobs and personal growth.

Eat This, Shoot That! Photo Tours; Santa Barbara Public Market; and the collection of businesses The Lark, Lucky Penny, Les Marchands and Santa Barbara Wine Collective each received the inaugural Destination Award, “Innovate – Collaborate – Elevate,” at this year’s Annual General Meeting. The awards were launched to honor hospitality businesses that have changed the tourism landscape. Innovation, collaboration and elevation are three criteria that contribute to a successful tourist destination, and Visit Santa Barbara recognized businesses that exemplify those qualities.

Santa Barbara has a wealth of hospitality businesses that make it an enticing place for tourists to visit. Their creative approaches to showcasing the region’s best qualities play an essential role in marketing the destination to leisure and business travelers, meeting planners, tour operators, media, social influencers and more. The three Destination Award winners have attracted new visitors (ranging from millennials to boomers) through new product development, pushed the limits of what Santa Barbara offers and enhanced business in the region.

Eat This, Shoot That! Photo Tours began in 2012 when owner Tara Jones was looking for a business venture that would utilize her talents. After teaching photography classes to locals, she decided to combine her passions and start a food tasting, wine tasting and photography tour in the Funk Zone. At the time, there were no other food walking tours in Santa Barbara, so Eat This, Shoot That! filled a need in the community for both locals and tourists, and put a unique spin on the traditional food walking tour by also providing photography tips. The Funk Zone tour has been so successful that Eat This, Shoot That! recently launched a second tour guiding guests through the Wine Collection of El Paseo while providing insight into the historic Presidio Neighborhood, all the while offering tips on how to take better photos.

Opened in spring 2014, the LEED-certified Public Market has supercharged Santa Barbara’s culinary scene. Akin to Pike’s Place in Seattle and the Ferry Building in San Francisco, Santa Barbara Public Market brings together local, artisanal food purveyors. Visitors can stroll along its spacious aisles and pick up fresh ingredients to cook at home or grab a bite to eat at one of the many stalls inside the building. Masterminded by Marge Cafarelli, the Public Market is more than a collection of food businesses each offering something unique. It has become a local gathering spot in downtown Santa Barbara where residents and visitors can meet up for a meal, a scoop of ice cream or a cup of coffee. An added bonus is the commissary kitchen, which has become its own destination for hosting events.

The Lark, Lucky Penny and Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant opened in summer 2013, rounding out the Funk Zone while honoring the history and arts components of the neighborhood. Opening these businesses was a lifelong dream for Sherry Villanueva, principal, who envisioned the area as a collaborative gathering space that would attract visitors to Santa Barbara. There is no question that she has succeeded, making these businesses their own destination within Santa Barbara. She has been so successful that she recently opened her fourth business, the Santa Barbara Wine Collective. The Wine Collective is the first communal tasting room in the Funk Zone where locals and visitors can taste and explore wines produced by a group of exceptional winemakers, and will no doubt, be another highly sought-after place to go.

This year’s Annual General Meeting centered around the theme of innovation. Keynote speaker Stuart Jenkins, senior vice president of innovation at Deckers Brands, shared the story of his rise to success and encouraged the audience to think independently, to persist in the face of obstacles and to follow their passions in order to innovate and compete in the marketplace.

The event also honored Visit Santa Barbara’s outgoing board members and welcomed proposed incoming board members. Gwen Stauffer, executive director of Lotusland, was introduced as board chair for 2015-16. She will lead Visit Santa Barbara in the fiscal year, which starts in July.
Proposed incoming board members include:

  • Ryan Parker, general manager, Canary Hotel
  • Morgen McLaughlin, executive director, Santa Barbara Vintners Association
  • Michael Morgan, general manager, Paseo Nuevo
  • Casey Graves, general manager, The Wayfarer

Visit Santa Barbara also thanked the following outgoing board members for their dedication to the organization and the tourism industry:

  • Kathleen Cochran, general manager, Bacara Resort & Spa
  • Richard Good, general manager, Classic Party Rentals
  • David Potter, owner/winemaker, Municipal Winemakers
  • Jeanette Webber, managing partner, Santa Barbara Hotel Group

Visit Santa Barbara is a non-profit 501(c)(6) organization jointly funded by the City of Santa Barbara, the County of Santa Barbara, the South Coast Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID) and by a membership of hospitality-related busi­nesses. The primary mission of Visit Santa Barbara is to enhance the economies of the City of Santa Barbara, South Coast communities and Santa Barbara County areas through tourism marketing that increases business revenue, tax revenue and creates jobs. Stay informed about Santa Barbara news with our Media Center, press releases and blog,