San Juan Islands Tourism Study

Tourism in the San Juans - A Survey of Residents and Businesses

Tourism helps support the San Juan Islands’ economy, but it may also create some challenges. County, state, and federal agencies have been working together to manage visitors and their impacts. Past studies reported visitors’ opinions toward tourism issues and possible solutions. Many people requested similar surveys of residents and businesses.

In 2017, San Juan County, through a Lodging Tax grant, sponsored two surveys which were conducted by Confluence Research and Consulting (scientists who helped with the previous visitor study). The surveys asked a sample of residents and many businesses on the islands about tourism issues. These surveys provided a unique opportunity for the public to help government officials make good tourism decisions which would maximize benefits and minimize impacts.

2017 Survey Report Now Complete!

The San Juans are a major northwest tourist destination, with increasing use and impacts that threaten resource health and the quality of visitor experiences. Several local, state, federal, and non-governmental organizations that manage parks, protected areas, or recreation facilities formed the San Juan Islands Terrestrial Managers Group (TMG) to address those challenges. The TMG recognizes that visitors' experiences occur across agency boundaries, and solutions for many visitor problems require a broader view and coordinated decisions. The long-term goal is a Cooperative Action Plan (CAP) to manage visitor use to protect and enhance resources and visitor experience.

Survey Findings now available!

In late February 2018, consultants with Confluence Research and Consulting shared their findings from the 2017 surveys at a series of public presentations. We'd like to extend our thanks to all who participated in this process. It was delightful to see so many interested citizens attend these presentations. Those combined results are now available in .pdf format (22.1MB file). If you prefer to look by island, those files are available below:

    Lopez Island

    Orcas Island

    San Juan Island

Local, state, and federal agencies that manage lands or recreation facilities in the San Juan Islands sponsored a study in 2017 to collect better information about the use, impacts, visitors, and preferences for management. The study addresses several questions related to San Juan Islands tourism, public lands, and recreation areas.

The study included:

• A survey of ferry passengers (visitors and residents). See an example of the survey given.

• Surveys of visitors to attraction sites (e.g. Lime Kiln State Park, Moran State Park, Shark Reef Sanctuary). See an example of the survey given.

• Counts and observations of use at attraction sites

• An inventory of accommodations on the three main islands (San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez)

• Analyses of visitation from WSF, other passenger ferries, airlines, and marinas

You can learn more about this study from this presentation and see Draft Highlight findings from the study.

Information will be used to inform decisions about development, recreation uses, and ways to manage or better distribute use to enhance the quality or sustainability of visitor experiences.

The study, funded through the County lodging tax grant and National Park Service investment, was conducted by Confluence Research and Consulting.

As soon as the results are available, we will publish them on this County webpage.