Business Groups Leaders Ask Council to Avoid Large-Scale Action on Pandemic

The head of Visit Santa Barbara told the city council March 10 that her agency is doing what it can to lessen the economic impact of the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic. 

Kathy Jenga-Dykes said Visit Santa Barbara will continue to encourage travel to the region “during this difficult time.” 

Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce interim chief Stephanie Armstrong and Downtown Santa Barbara leader Carrie Kelly asked the council to refrain from sweeping action and take short-term actions in regard to the economy. 

Jenga-Dykes said 82 percent of the travelers who stay in local lodging are from the United States, while 18 percent are from other countries. Only 1 percent of the visitors to the area from cruise ships. 

The local tourism industry creates some 1,300 jobs, she said.   

“The most recent survey commissioned by Visit Santa Barbara from independent research firm Destination Analysts is the 2016 Cruise Ship Economic Impact Study,” wrote Visit Santa Barbara public relations director Karna Hughes in an email. “According to that study, cruise ship business contributed an estimated $3.9 million to the local economy in 2016.” 

Cruise ship passengers reported spending an average of $109.25 per travel party, Hughes said. 

While most council members and city staff said they agree that the current ban on cruise ships is necessary for now, Mayor Cathy Murrillo said Santa Barbara should not halt all of them after June. 

City staff said the situation could change overnight and so should council actions on the matter. 

Councilman Oscar Guttierrez suggested many organizations cancel events that draw large crowds until the situation improves. 

Meanwhile, UC Santa Barbara officials have told students to take all classes online only, while sports activities will be curtailed.

Posted March 10, 2020.

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