Tourism officials look domestically to attract new visitors
By Dolores Quintana
It may take two years for Santa Monica’s tourism industry to fully recover, as the city looks domestically rather than internationally to attract new visitors.
“The ‘recovery and forecast’ research shows that slow but steady growth in tourism is in progress and that the road to recovery will be fraught with challenges known and unknown,” said Misti Kerns, President and CEO of Santa Monica Travel & Tourism (SMTT).
During SMTT”s annual submit, held virtually last month, officials said that Santa Monica hotels registered their highest occupancy rate since 2019 on Memorial Day, when it reached 90.5 percent, but more growth is still needed.
“Midweek business is still needed to assist in stabilizing occupancy and conference business and international leisure needs to return before that can happen, so a full recovery is not anticipated until 2023-2024,” reads a press release from SMTT.
In an attempt to recover their share of the tourism market, SMTT has adopted a “drive market” strategy. Rather than waiting for the market to recover on its own, they are seeking to bring tourists back by anticipating the market and the needs of those tourists through marketing research and prudent application of the research findings.
Part of SMTT’s new strategy is looking domestically rather than internationally to attract new tourists. Santa Monica’s tourism industry was comprised of 51 percent international visitors in 2019, which fell to 24.9 percent in 2020.
‘While increasing international visitation remains the primary objective, a steady tourism recovery in 2021 now focuses on a drive market strategy with reach into California, Texas, Arizona, Nevada and Florida,” SMTT said.
At the annual summit, Lauren Schlau, President, Lauren Schlau Consulting, presented a travel outlook for Santa Monica, along with trends that are impacting domestic and international tourism. According to Schlau, the domestic visitor trend will continue into 2022 for Santa Monica, while the share of international visitors should increase starting this month, when the U.S. allows more countries to visit as reported.
Looking to 2022, Schlau predicted rising per-capita and total spending, still well below 2019 but above 2021 levels.
“Assumptions for 2022 include increasing demand with more international and business travel; room rates will continue to rise above the inflation rate; and no new supply in 2022 and beyond, although many properties are refurbishing, repositioning and improving product and service – this may result in some guest displacement and higher room rates, during peak periods,” SMTT said.