Ventura County ranks last statewide tourism spending

September 13, 2000
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesCalifornia’s leading travel and tourism agencies issued a report that isn’t warming the hearts - pockets - of Ventura County merchants: the county ranked last among the 58 statewide for growth in travel spending over a six-year period.Ventura County reported $808 million in total travel spending during 1998, only a 1.9 percent annual boost from the 1992 total of $720 million. Although no one is turning their nose up at the 1998 figure of $808 million, the slow growth rate - especially when the recession is factored into the 1992 figure - is nothing to brag about, especially when travel spending increased an average of 5.2 percent annually throughout the state.“California Fast Facts 2000: Statewide & Regional Tourism Facts & Figures” published by a joint agency comprised of the the California Travel & Tourism Commission and the California Division of Tourism, showed that Santa Barbara tourism increased by 5.1 percent on an average annual basis during the same time period.Santa Paula, not included specifically in the study but rolled into Ventura County totals, has seen a rise in hotel/motel bed tax return as well as retail sales taxes, according to the UCSB Economic Forecast Project reports. The Fillmore & Western Railway’s increasing popularity is bringing more visitors to the Santa Clara River Valley - a.k.a. Heritage Valley - and although special Santa Paula destination packages are being implemented, most regular stops in the city are short, not enabling tourists to explore the downtown including the California Oil Museum, area restaurants and shops.But the numbers about Ventura County’s ranking on the statewide scale, especially when compared to its neighbor to the north, Santa Barbara, are somewhat puzzling as the two areas are very similar, perched on the ocean and snuggled near the mountains.
Santa Barbara’s 5.1 percent annual average increase in tourism spending from 1992 to 1998 has the county on the brink of the magic billion dollar mark: in 1992, about $737 million was spent by travelers while in 1998 the number hit about $991 million.The average visitor to Ventura County spent $68.70 in 1998 and $81.70 in Santa Barbara, which could translate to simple arithmetic: restaurants and hotels are more expensive in Santa Barbara and shoppers have found that goods are pricier. Santa Barbara - the focus of a television soap opera and often in the news when coupled with celebrity names - is sexier that Ventura County and also is home to the University of California Santa Barbara. . .college students draw visitors, which in turn impacts the local economy. Ventura County has the fledging University of California Channel Islands and hopes are high its creation will also boost the local economy.One thing that Santa Barbara has that Ventura County doesn’t is an airport that draws high numbers of passenger flights.

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