Visitors bureau working to keep San Juans on the tourism map

The visitors bureau is leading the pack when it comes to promoting the San Juan Islands.

At its annual luncheon on Orcas Island May 12, Board President Carl Silvernail explained it this way: “We are a destination marketing organization. The chambers of commerce take care of visitors once they arrive. “If you aren’t a member of both, you are losing out.”

The San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau contracts with both San Juan County and the town of Friday Harbor, and its staff works closely with the chamber of commerce offices. The bureau facilitates national and regional media coverage and magazine and newspaper advertising, coordinates photoshoots in the islands, maintains a robust website (, posts daily on social media accounts and more.

Launching soon is a new San Juan Islands Insider app, which will drive visitor engagement and commerce by rewarding people for visiting places in the islands. It is free for businesses to participate thanks to a Lodging Tax Advisory Committee grant. To be included, email creator Tim Fry at

According to Executive Director Deborah Hopkins Buchanan, visitors to the San Juans in 2015 spent $203 million for lodging, food, arts and entertainment and retail. In addition, lodging tax is up for all three islands. The 2015 numbers are as follows:

Lopez Island: $60,000 (a 60 percent increase from 2014).

Orcas Island: $344,000 (a 4.8 percent increase)

San Juan Island: $237,000 (a 12.9 percent increase)

Friday Harbor: $200,000 (an 8.7 percent increase)