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Tri-county tourism, hospitality hurting but region suited for recovery

By   /   Friday, April 17th, 2020  /   Comments Off on Tri-county tourism, hospitality hurting but region suited for recovery

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Keeping the economy closed has saved lives, but it has hurt and will continue to hurt tri-county residents in the pocketbook.

A webinar put on by UC Santa Barbara on April 16 probed the different ways the community’s businesses were hurting and panelists talked about solutions to help ease the pain.

“I think we can save both lives and livelihoods,” said Peter Rupert, an economics professor at UCSB and director of the Economic Forecast Project.

In the webinar, he spoke with several Santa Barbara business leaders, including business owners like Acme Hospitality CEO Sherry Villanueva, and pillars like Visit Santa Barbara CEO Kathy Janega-Dykes. Montecito Bank & Trust’s President & COO George Leis and Manager of Government Guaranteed Lending Roger Gilbert also spoke, as did Lynn Fitzgibbons, chair of the Infectious Diseases Division at Cottage Health.

The underlying message of the webinar was full recovery is possible for the area, but it’s going to take a long time to get back to where the area was before the health crisis.

Santa Barbara is heavily reliant on businesses like tourism and restaurants that serve tourists for jobs and revenue, and those are some of the hardest-hit sectors.

Rupert said 30 percent of restaurants could close because of COVID-19.

However, the area is also uniquely situated when California does start its slow steps back to recovery.

Janega-Dykes pointed to new trends that will likely emerge when travel restrictions are lifted, including a reluctance to return to air travel while many travelers are feeling the urge to get out.

That, along with a growing desire to avoid big cities, means Santa Barbara may be able to capitalize on Angelenos looking for a day trip they can drive to.

• Contact Amber Hair at

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About the author

Staff Writer at Pacific Coast Business Times, Inc.