Olympic National Park a global tourist draw, visitor bureau says

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — While Olympic Peninsula residents see Olympic National Park as their backyard, people from Beijing to Paris know it better as a World Heritage Site and are eager to visit, said Diane Schostak, executive director of the Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau.

The park is one of 193 natural World Heritage Sites and one of 12 in the U.S., Schostak told the Port Angeles Business Association on Tuesday morning.

Global visitors up

The number of international visitors is increasing in the park and in the region, Schostak said.

The Puget Sound area produces the most visitors, especially during the off-season, she said.

“They see the beautiful Olympics every day. They know who we are. They have favorite places and share their experiences the next week at the water cooler.”

A secondary market based out of Victoria, is emerging, but while Canadians love the mountains, many still only see the Olympic Peninsula as a route to Seattle and Oregon, she said.

Schostak said the new, nearly untapped market is international travelers from Europe and Asia, where Olympic National Park is known in a different light.

“If you talk about the Olympic National Park, you get blank stares. If you call it the World Heritage Park, they get excited,” she said.

Visitor centers ask tourists to stick pins in the maps on their walls to represent their homes, and those show that thousands of visitors from Europe and the Far East are coming to see the North Olympic Peninsula.

China in particular is producing more visitors to the region.

Emerging market

“China is an emerging market. You see orders of 30 Boeings going to China. People are starting to travel,” Schostak said.

“The Olympic Peninsula is hot. They want to visit.”

Interest also is growing in Germany.

During a recent Lufthansa Airlines promotion, German travel agents had a chance to earn a trip to one of several locations in the U.S., including Las Vegas and New Orleans, with 10 winners going to each location.

The winners overwhelmingly requested the trip to the Olympic Peninsula, Schostak said.

Much of the advertising for the region is essentially free, she said.

In 2013, China's state TV produced an hourlong high-quality feature about the park's attractions.

Seattle-area travel organizations often use the Olympic Peninsula to attract visitors to the city, Schostak said.

'Coming to us'

“As much as 45 percent of what they are doing is coming to us,” she said.

One of the challenges to marketing is to understand what visitors really want to do once they get to the Olympic Peninsula.

Schostak said a large portion of marketing features activities such as kayaking and hiking, getting people out into the natural world to experience the wildness of the region.

But the strategy may be heading in the wrong direction and is being examined for changes in the future, she said.

“Most people never leave the pavement,” she added.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 18. 2014 5:19PM
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