Friday Harbor will spend $40,000 to promote summer tourism

For the first time, a portion of lodging tax money reserved for construction or maintenance of tourism-related facilities will be used to promote visiting Friday Harbor during the summer, from May to August.

The Friday Harbor Town Council Thursday allocated $40,000 for a blitz of summer promotions over the Internet, in print, on radio and on television.

The San Juan Island Chamber of Commerce was allocated $15,000 for a promotion with Comcast for on-air promotions in four zones: South Snohomish, North Seattle, Bellevue-Issaquah, Woodinville-Redmond. A commercial by will be broadcast by Comcast over Bravo, Comedy, E!, Headline, Animal Planet and Fox News channels. A banner video will be placed on

In a proposal from Comcast, the cable company claims the commercial will reach 63.2 percent of adults age 25-54. It claims its online ads receive 186,667 impressions per month.

The Town Council also voted 5-0 to solicit a proposal from the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau for a summer advertising campaign in an amount up to $25,000. That campaign is expected to focus on print and radio.

The town charges 4 percent in lodging taxes for tourism-related uses: 2 percent for tourism-related facilities, such as the public restrooms on Sunshine Alley, and 2 percent for promotions to bolster tourism in the shoulder season, the thought being that the town and island had no problem attracting visitors during the summer months.

That thought has changed. After two years of sluggish economy, Chamber of Commerce executive director Vernadel Peterson, Visitors Bureau executive director Deborah Hopkins and Town Councilwoman Carrie Brooks, who also chairs the town Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, all spoke of the urgency businesses feel to have a successful summer before the slower shoulder season begins.

And sluggish it has been. Sales and lodging tax revenues in 2009 were the lowest since 2005, forcing cutbacks in town payroll and services and causing several businesses to close. In 2009, the only month to generate more lodging tax than in the same month the previous year was November.

All told, the town received $117,376.55 as its share of first 2 percent lodging tax in 2009, $20,000 less than in 2008. Ditto for the second 2 percent tax. The town received $895,132.17 as its share of sales tax revenue, $132,075 less than in 2008 and $230,000 less than in 2007.