Submitted by San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau.
“I can’t control the wind, but I can adjust the sails.” – Ricky Skaggs. The 39th annual National Travel and Tourism Week, taking place May 1-7, recognizes the need to consider the future of travel and the vital role the travel industry will play in helping communities recover, fostering sustainability, and ushering in new and innovative solutions.
The San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau hosted three public ‘Tourism Talk’ meetings earlier this spring as an opportunity for residents to share concerns and ideas about tourism in 2022 and beyond as we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Common themes emerged from all three meetings: traffic, water, trash, and crowding in parks. After consideration and conversations with additional stakeholders, the following are our first visitor management messaging priorities:
• Coordinate with San Juan County for the annual distribution of the Stewardship Guide to island accommodations, including Airbnb/VRBO, and explore placement on Washington State Ferries and Kenmore Air.
• Expand promotion of car-free travel options (i.e., shuttles, bike rentals, etc.) to help reduce traffic and parking issues.
• Collaborate with Parks, the Land Bank, and Preservation Trust to create an all-islands parks map with trails, bike racks, parking, accessibility, etc., and content about best visitation practices (i.e., Leave No Trace).
• Collaborate with County, Plastic Free Salish Sea, and island recycling services to create effective messaging about reducing waste, plastics, ‘wishful’ recycling, etc.
The Sustainable Tourism Management Plan community meetings process will address these and other issues raised like housing, vacation rentals, and labor. This process, now underway, will outline the shared community vision, goals, and implementation measures to drive sustainable tourism in the San Juan Islands. Community participation is essential for a robust dialogue regarding ways to thoughtfully guide tourism as we balance our dynamic tourism economy with the quality of our environment, quality of resident life, and quality visitor education and experiences. Visitors Bureau board and staff have advocated for this plan for ten years and applied for the lodging tax grant which is funding the consultants and planning process. Find out more and RSVP for public Zoom meetings the weeks of May 9 and 16 at www.sjctourism.com.
The San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau is the official destination marketing and management organization for San Juan County and the Town of Friday Harbor. It represents over 250 island businesses and nonprofits representing local history, arts, outdoor recreation, agritourism, lodging, dining, parks, and more. Funded mainly by lodging tax paid by visitors, it also receives membership dues.