Let’s Talk Tourism
The following is a Guest Editorial by Barbara Marrett of the visitor’s bureau…
The first week in May is National Travel & Tourism Week, created to champion the power of travel to enhance communities across the country by contributing to the local economy and overall quality of life.
In the past, I’ve used this opportunity to outline the cultural and economic benefits visitors bring to our community. This year, however, I’d like to also acknowledge that visitors can challenge the very reasons a location is attractive in the first place. As the Islands have grown in popularity, it’s important to ask:
- How do we protect or restore the peaceful places locals have grown to love?
- How do we encourage and educate visitors who want to contribute to making the Islands a better place?
- What are the best and worst outcomes of tourism on our individual islands?
In an attempt to answer these questions, the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau is currently spearheading a draft tourism master plan for the County. Over the next few months we will incorporate the comments received from diverse key stakeholder groups. Once these comments are input and the first draft is shared with the County Council, this draft will be shared with the general public for comment.
As the Communications and Stewardship Manager for the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau, I am in a position to see many sides of complex visitor issues. At the Visitors Bureau we strive to balance economic development with visitor education by promoting stewardship practices like the Be Whale Wise Guidelines and Leave No Trace. While our tourism economy depends on our beautiful environment, a heathy ecosystem intrinsically provides much more than jobs to support our overall wellbeing.
Now is the perfect time to have an honest dialogue about how to shape our community/destination in terms of economics, visitor growth, sustainability and capacity. Lopez Island just conducted a very civil community conversation on sustainable tourism. Other island communities would do well to follow suit. Once we roll out the draft tourism master plan, please take the time to make your voice heard.
The San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau is the County and Town of Friday Harbor’s official destination marketing organization. It represents over 300 island businesses representing local history, arts, outdoor recreation, agri-tourism and visitor education. Visitors here generated about $203 million dollars in spending and $3.7 million in local taxes during 2015. Lodging taxes paid by visitors help fund many things we love: community theaters, museums, county parks, fairgrounds, festivals and events.
As year-round residents, seasonal workers, or guests, we are all stewards of these amazing islands. We can do our part to preserve island nature and culture for generations to come through thoughtful planning now and balancing of ecological and economic values.
San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau