Santa Barbara South Coast Visitor Profile Study Shows Tourism Injects $1.9 Billion into Santa Barbara Economy

Key findings released at Visit Santa Barbara’s 2018 Travel Outlook

Natalie Bovee, Communications Manager
Visit Santa Barbara
(805) 966-9222, ext. 107 or [email protected] 

Karna Hughes, Director of Communications
Visit Santa Barbara
(805) 966-9222, ext. 112 or [email protected] 

Santa Barbara, Calif. (Oct. 19, 2017)Visit Santa Barbara (VSB), the destination marketing organization for Santa Barbara’s South Coast region, released key findings from its 2016-17 Santa Barbara South Coast Visitor Profile and Tourism Economic Impact Study at its annual 2018 Travel Outlook event Oct. 19 at Hotel Californian.

The survey, conducted by Destination Analysts between September 2016 and August 2017, shows that total direct visitor related spending contributed $1.9 billion to the local economy, which represents a 25.3 percent increase since 2013 (when visitor spending was $1.5 billion) when the last survey was conducted. If the tourism industry disappeared, every resident in the Santa Barbara South Coast would need to spend an additional $13,241 each year to maintain current economic standards.

The Santa Barbara South Coast welcomed an estimated 7.2 million total visitors, representing an 18 percent increase (compared to 6.1 million in 2013). The majority of visitors surveyed reside within the United States (82 percent), while the remaining 18 percent were international residents, with Canada, the U.K. and China being the top international markets (up from 15.6 percent in 2013).

Visitor spending in the Santa Barbara South Coast generates a total of $56 million in annual tax revenues (up from $46 million in 2013) for the communities in the region, supporting more than 13,000 jobs and generating a $1,031 annual tax benefit per Santa Barbara South Coast household. Visitors reported spending an average of $430.22 per day compared to $255.75 in the 2013 study.

“This latest and most extensive study of visitors to the Santa Barbara South Coast provides us new insights into how to best market our community in an era of significantly changing demographics and consumer behavior,” said Visit Santa Barbara President/CEO Kathy Janega-Dykes.

The most common activities visitors participated in during their trip to the Santa Barbara South Coast were dining (71.7 percent), going to the beach (55.5 percent) and shopping (42.5 percent). In addition, more than one in 10 visitors went wine tasting in Santa Barbara (12.5 percent), up from 6.4 percent three years ago.

Survey results show three in 10 visitors (23.6 percent) stayed overnight in hotels, motels or inns in the Santa Barbara area during their trip, with day-trippers representing the majority of Santa Barbara visitors at 69.3 percent. The highest portion of domestic Santa Barbara visitors reside in the Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County metropolitan statistical area (MSA) at 41.8 percent, followed by the Ventura MSA with 15.7 percent. Top out-of-state markets include the MSAs of Las Vegas (1.8 percent) and Tucson (0.8 percent).

Two-thirds of visitors surveyed arrived to the Santa Barbara South Coast by car, either in a personal (53.5 percent) or rental vehicle (11.5 percent). The next most common methods of arrival were train/Amtrak (19.3 percent, up significantly from 6 percent in 2013) and commercial airline (6 percent, up from 4.5 percent in 2013).

In total, Destination Analysts collected 1,801 surveys at intercept points throughout the county, including popular visitor attractions, like Stearns Wharf and the Santa Barbara Zoo. The full results of the Santa Barbara South Coast Visitor Profile and Tourism Economic Impact Study can be found at

More than 150 Visit Santa Barbara members, Santa Barbara County hospitality industry professionals, city and county officials, and other community leaders attended Travel Outlook, an annual event hosted by Visit Santa Barbara. This year’s event included a presentation from keynote speaker Peter Kageyama, an author and expert on the relationship between people and places, who offered insights on how to cultivate an authentic, thriving tourism destination in a keynote address, “For the Love of Santa Barbara.” Jeff Lugosi, managing director, CBRE Hotels; Maggie Campbell, executive director at Downtown Santa Barbara; and Kristen Miller, president/CEO for the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce, answered questions on 2018 lodging forecasts.


High-res photos available at:
(Please note photo credits listed in the files.)
Contact Natalie Bovee at [email protected] for B-roll and additional images

Visit Santa Barbara President/CEO Kathy Janega-Dykes is available for interviews. Contact Natalie Bovee at [email protected] to arrange an interview or for additional information.