Those of us who call Grays Harbor home know what kinds of things we love about living here.
Now others are discovering some of those things too!
Not only do housing statistics show that more people are making Grays Harbor their home, but there’s also been an uptick of people discovering what a great place this is to visit.
This week we want to talk about Grays Harbor County as a tourist destination and just how much tourism positively impacts our lives.
OUR HOME IS TOURIST HAVEN
The latest figures available indicate that Grays Harbor County saw a 9.4 percent increase in tourism from 2015 to 2016, according to Mike Bruner, director of the Grays Harbor County Tourism Office.
That is approximately three times the increase in tourism the state had during the same period.
Those numbers come from looking at the money brought in by the hotel/motel tax in the county. And the county’s numbers don’t include Westport and Ocean Shores, who keep their tourism funds within their own cities to specifically market them.
Seabrook, the new coastal resort community north of Ocean Shores has helped to draw more tourists (as well as many new homes and businesses!) and to bring in a lot of money in hotel/motel taxes.
“They are a large percentage of the increase in the North Beach area,” Bruner said.
The county money raised from those hotel/motel taxes goes toward marketing the county’s tourism assets.
“We are very fortunate that our County Commissioners have realized the benefits of an aggressive marketing campaign,” Bruner said.
The more that people come to visit and stay at one of the area’s lodging providers, the more money is raised that can be cycled back into marketing efforts to let other potential tourists know about all the great things Grays Harbor has to offer, he said.
“This reinvestment approach has a snowball effect. We obviously have a lot of people who are repeat tourists, but it’s especially encouraging to reach somebody for the first time with the idea of visiting here. Then they come back year after year.
“It’s great to create a repeat visitor,” he said.
“What we are trying to do is encourage people to come and see the real Grays Harbor for themselves. Sometimes the Harbor area isn’t portrayed in a positive light. Our goal is to continue to put our best face forward and show all the wonderful things to see and do in Grays Harbor.
“One of only two temperate rain forests in the Northern Hemisphere is located in our borders. We have world-class sport fishing, as well as miles and miles of pristine beaches. If you live here – or have grown up here as I have – it is easy to overlook or take for granted what we have and not realize how lucky we are that all of these natural assets and the activities they make possible, are right in our own backyard. It is all of this unique beauty and these incredible experiences that help create very special memories for those
who visit Grays Harbor.”
Bruner said the razor clam resource is also an incredible tourism draw, boosting tourism visits and dollars every time the beaches are open for a dig.
TOURISM HELPS BUSINESSES
Not only does the money raised in hotel/motel taxes help to market this area, the actual dollars spent by visitors adds up quickly and helps many of our businesses thrive as well as providing jobs.
Here are some interesting figures: Based on hotel/motel tax collection, in 2016 revenue generated from lodging stays alone in Ocean Shores was an estimated $19,511,000, and $5,239,000 in Westport. In the rest of Grays Harbor (outside of Ocean Shores and Westport) $35,683,500 was spent for lodging in 2016!
And that’s not all! Certain formulas used in the tourist industry can be applied to help estimate how much money was spent by visitors in other areas, Bruner said.
One such formula indicates that throughout Grays Harbor County in 2016 approximately, $63,614,210 was spent on recreational activities including sightseeing, equipment purchased, guides hired, etc.
Gas, oil and transportation dollars were also estimated at $63,614,210.
Prepared food and beverages, culinary tourism, distilleries, fast food, etc. was an estimated $54,072,079 last year.
In 2016, an estimated $38,168,527 in tourist dollars was spent on food and other items from grocery stores.
An estimated $34,987,815 in tourist dollars was spent for miscellaneous retail including souvenirs, specialty items, luxury items and toiletries.
Plus, an additional $3,180,712 was spent for various other incidental expenses.
“In all, based on what revenue we know was generated from lodging stays, using this formula, the estimated total economic impact of tourism in Grays Harbor County was somewhere around $318,071,053 in 2016,” Bruner explained.
“And all of that does not include monies directly or indirectly attributed to tourism activity related to the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino, because being a tribal entity, it is not part of the County’s hotel/motel tax system. QBR draws many people and greatly contributes to the economic benefit of tourism in our community. So, all those numbers are actually even greater.”
With that great of an economic benefit to our community, we should all be thinking of ways to encourage tourism.
It can be as simple as painting your house and mowing your lawn to make our community look more attractive – or helping your neighbor do the same – that’s something we here at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor have preached for a long time.
As each person invests some time, effort and money to tidy up their own house, it makes an overall impression. We are still reaping the visual benefit of our community “Paint the Corridor” years where volunteers helped paint dozens of houses along the main drags in our community along Highway 101.
We say, stoop to pick up litter in a park or on the street, encourage your city government to repair sidewalks, add flowers, decorative lights, benches and garbage cans. Use your time and creativity to support fun community festivals, events, fun runs, fishing derbies, etc. It all contributes to making our community a more attractive place to live and to visit!
And Bruner, our local tourism expert, says it can be as simple as kindness –
giving directions to someone from out of town, showing them how to dig a razor clam, directing them to your favorite restaurant – that makes all the difference to a visitor – and an enjoyable visit brings people back for more.
“The biggest thing,” Bruner said, “is being accommodating to visitors. If they are new at the boat ramp and don’t quite understand the procedures, please be patient and understand that if we accommodate tourists as a community, and if we help to create a good experience, they will continue to bring their hard-earned dollars here. This revenue infusion has a positive impact that benefits all of us,”
So far in 2017, the hotel/motel numbers continue to look good.
“We continue to see growth through the months that have been recorded. We have kept saying for a couple of years that we don’t want to bank on having our numbers continue to increase at the rate at which they have been, but we are going to work as hard as we can to market our tourism assets and continue that positive trend,” Bruner said.
FIRST TIME HOMEBUYER ADVICE
First time homebuyer? To get the best loans, get educated. Check out HomeSage.org for your internet homebuyer education and housing counseling needs. We here at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor will help you get it done. We may be able to help you finance your home purchase, too.
Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks® of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is the executive director. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing opportunities for all residents of Grays Harbor County.
Do you have questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or becoming a homeowner or one of our contractors? We have rehab loan funds at tailored rates! Call us at 533-7828, write us or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.