Whidbey Island tourism spikes in 2021

Daily visitors to Island County boomed this year despite COVID, with economic impact far-reaching.

Whidbey Island tourism is booming this year, according to reports from the Island County tourism committee, and the uptick in visitors bodes well for the island’s overall economic recovery.

“I didn’t know we’d recover this quickly,” said Sherrye Wyatt, the public relations and marketing manager for the tourism committee.

“I don’t think anyone could have expected so many people to seek out our destination,” Wyatt added.

According to the committee’s statistics, though, visitors have indeed sought out Whidbey’s natural and historic landmarks, both on the island and online, in notably larger numbers than in previous years.

The committee treasurer’s report showed that as of July 31, Island County has collected $404,576.58 in lodging tax revenue so far this year. That’s a 67% increase from the same time period in 2019, during which the county collected $242,142.53.

It also represents a 126.8% increase from the same time period in 2020, though travel was restricted that summer because of the pandemic.

Another report from the committee showed that the number of daily visitors to the county has been consistently higher this year than in 2020, 2019 or 2018.

The committee also tracked website traffic, which increased significantly this year. As of July 28, the county tourism website, whidbeycamanoislands.com, had 246,100 views in 2021. On the same date in the previous three years, the website’s total year-to-date views only ranged from 162,938 to 183,642.

According to Wyatt, people are jumping at the chance to move around as COVID-19 travel restrictions ease, but they aren’t looking for distant getaways.

“Whidbey and Camano Islands are viewed as a close and safe haven — safe from COVID as they explore hiking trails or beaches, safe from wildfire, safe from high temperatures and safe from other problems metropolitan destinations traditionally can have,” she said.

Unusually high visitor rates are good news for Whidbey Island, she opined, as the economic impact of tourism is far-reaching.

“It absolutely is contributing to economic recovery here,” Wyatt said. “It’s putting tax dollars into our county, and it’s also helping small businesses that maybe didn’t have enough traffic before when things were shut down.”

This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sister publication to The Herald.

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