By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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PORT ANGELES — The Olympic Peninsula's connection to nature is most important to the region's identity, and its recreational opportunities should be promoted to attract more visitors, a new marketing study says.
The greatest challenges to attracting more visitors stem from the region's remoteness, however, the study says, include accessibility to the area and the availability of transportation options once visitors arrive.
Those are some of the main conclusions reached in a multi-month study of tourism on the Olympic Peninsula conducted by North Star Destination Strategies of Tennessee and funded by the Port Angeles-based Olympic Peninsula Tourism Commission.
“The study is going to help drive our marketing decisions and our messaging for the next decade,” said Diane Schostak, administrator of the tourism commission, which paid $40,000 for the 199-page study.
The tourism commission comprises tourism representatives from all four of the Olympic Peninsula's counties, including the major communities in Clallam and Jefferson counties as well as those in Mason and Grays Harbor counties, Schostak said.
All invest lodging tax money in the commission. These lodging tax funds, collected by cities and counties from hotels and motels, paid for the study, which began in October and was released in May, Schostak said.
The report's executive summary concluded that the region's greatest opportunities included developing an all-inclusive resource for visitor information and more marketing and promotion focusing on outdoor recreation.
“Many voices from research agreed that the region already has a wealth of outdoor pursuits for visitors to enjoy,” North Star staff wrote in the executive summary.
“In order to reach a larger audience, the assets need to be further developed and promoted in a more consistent way.”
Tourism representatives from across the North Olympic Peninsula said many communities will benefit from the study, which detailed perceptions of the Olympic Peninsula from locals, visitors and tourism industry representatives from other areas in Washington and Oregon.
“I felt that it's a good investment moving forward, and I feel that the information is really invaluable moving forward,” said Christian Pivarnik, marketing director for the city of Port Townsend.
Pivarnik said data gleaned from the report will help all of the Peninsula plan future marketing efforts.
“It is really helpful to have this documented,” said Russ Veenema, executive director of the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“There's an immense amount of information in there, and anytime you read it you're going to find a little nugget of information you're going to find helpful.”
Barbara Hanna, communications and marketing director for the city of Sequim, said the information will be important for ensuring the Peninsula's tourism-promoting agencies spend their limited budgets wisely by targeting promotion to the right kind of visitors.
“It gives us a point to make sure we're focusing our dollars in the best way,” Hanna said.
Lissy Andros, executive director of the Forks Chamber of Commerce, said she and her staff will definitely aspects of the study to improve their promotional efforts.
“It was really enlightening,” she said.
North Star staff interviewed about 450 people for the study, including local members of the tourism industry, visitors and tourism promoters from some of the Peninsula's competitors, including Mount Rainier National Park, the Oregon Coast and Washington's Long Beach peninsula.
When surveyed on what biggest challenges the Olympic Peninsula faces in increasing visitors, tourism industry members from the region said:
■ “Transportation access and access to the land.”
■ “No matter how stunning the natural beauty, having an infrastructure that is rundown will not bring repeat visitors.
When asked about the Peninsula's greatest asset, the region's natural beauty was on the top of the list.
■ “It's scenery, landscape, diversity — jagged peaks, picturesque small ports, rainforest and organic farms, and uncrowded and unspoiled atmosphere,” survey respondents said.
■ “You don't have to go far to find beauty. It's everywhere.”
Representatives of other tourism hot spots interviewed for the study said the Olympic Peninsula is best known for Olympic National Park and other natural wonders.
In general, Schostak said she though many of the results in the study confirmed that existing Peninsula-wide tourism efforts spearheaded by the Tourism Commission are moving in the right direction.
Changes can always be made, Schostak said, adding that she thought the Peninsula's county and state parks could be better promoted.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.