A little weather warmth lights up tourist season on Peninsula
Peninsula Daily News
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Wet weather in June and early July had a heavy impact on tourist visits, said Diane Schostak, executive director of the Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau, but she added that halfway through the 2012 summer season, the number of travelers seems to be creeping back up.
“The weather definitely put a damper, pun intended, on our spring and early summer business,” Schostak said, “though things are quickly returning to normal with the return of the sunshine.”
The informal survey of resorts and other lodgings Schostak has made over the past few months shows the larger establishments doing generally better than last year, with small hotels and motels seeing more modest gains.
Schostak has noticed more late reservations at lodgings across the Peninsula — meaning more people are deciding last minute to take a small vacation.
They come both from in and out of state and mostly seek out the larger resorts, such as Sol Duc Hot Springs, she said, probably because of their better name recognition.
“[The Peninsula is] sort of that quick vacation option,” Schostak said.
Toni Skinner, general manager of the Sequim Holiday Inn Express and Suites, confirmed Schostak’s report of more late reservations than previous years, saying she’s also seen more customers from Seattle and the east side of the mountains than from out-of-state.
Skinner attributed this to a number of factors, but said the still-recovering economy is probably the main reason.
“This year, most of them have been local,” Skinner said.
“I think people are staying close to home and saving their money.”
The city of Sequim in general has enjoyed a positive tourism season so far, with a huge turnout for the annual Lavender Festival, said Barbara Hanna, Sequim communications and marketing director.
Regarding the cool summer, Hanna said she’s heard from numerous out-of-state visitors who are reveling in much milder weather than the rest of the country is seeing.
“It was pleasant for them,” Hanna said.
“It was a relief.”
Lodging tax figures for July will not be issued by the state until September.
Hanna said the most recent lodging tax figures, which are through May, show a 3.6 percent increase, or about $2,700, from the same time last year.
Russ Veenema, executive director of the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce, reported a similar 3 percent increase over May 2011 lodging tax figures for Port Angeles.
Though local hotels and motels have reported a general uptick in customers, Veenema was cautious about predicting a stellar 2012 tourist season.
“I’m not anticipating a banner year,” Veenema said.
“We had a slow start and have to make up for a slow start.”
Veenema praised events Port Angeles has hosted so far this year.
He noted that the Ride the Hurricane recreational bicycle ride, in which hundreds will tackle the steep climb to Hurricane Ridge today has drawn 40 percent larger ridership than last year, with 442 registered online at http://tinyurl.com/6y7prta as of early Saturday afternoon.
He expects more to register today; riders can pay their $35 registration, beginning at 6 a.m. for the 7 a.m. ride at the Peninsula College western parking lot at 1502 W. Lauridsen Blvd.
Closer to the coast, Forks Visitors Center Manager Mike Gurling said the number of people signing the visitors center guest book is slightly down compared to the first six months of last year, though reported July numbers are equaling out to those for last year in July.
As of the end of July this year, just slightly more than 24,000 have signed the guest book, while a total of 45,579 visitors signed in 2011.
As of May, said the city of Forks has brought in just more than $40,000 in lodging tax revenue, Gurling said. The city collected a total of $139,000 in all of 2011.
Gurling said Forks attracts about equal numbers of in-state and out-of-state visitors, with at least five or six states being represented each day in the visitors center.
He said an average of about 300 people sign the guest book every day.
And then there’s the draw of “Twilight.”
Some ebbing on interest in the setting of the four novels about vampires and teen love has been reported in the past.
But Gurling confirmed that Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling books set in Forks, LaPush and Port Angeles and the subsequent movies still account for a huge percentage of tourist interest, with the Forks Chamber of Commerce’s Forks Twilight Tour maps, released in 2007, continuing to be popular.
The visitors center guest book has a space for comments next to each name, and between 90 and 95 percent of them have something to do with the Twilight Saga,” Gurling said, with messages such as “Team Edward!” and “I love Twilight!”
“Most of the [comments] are Twilight-related,” Gurling said.
“It’s still very big.”
The weather has definitely been a factor in visits to Jefferson County, said Port Townsend Visitor’s Center Manager Karen Anderson — adding that the number of visitors who have signed the center’s guest book in July is about 300 over the number last July.
Anderson said she’s glad to see the winter and spring slump finally subsiding.
“July kind of shot over last year,” she said.
“We really haven’t had a summer for the last couple years.”
The year through May has been one the best that Port Townsend has had recently when it comes to lodging tax revenue, according to Christina Pivarnik, the city’s marketing director.
Lodging tax revenue up until May of this year were up $12,000 from the same period last year, Pivarnik said.
Additional, July saw visitors from every state, according to guest book sign-ins at the Port Townsend Visitor’s Center.
“I think in the last month I’ve heard at least a half dozen accents on the streets of Port Townsend,” Pivarnik said.
“It’s one of the best years we’ve had in a decade, definitely since the recession hit.”
Last modified: August 04. 2012 6:22PM