Roll out red carpet for our island visitors | Editorial

The first step is getting visitors out here.

The next task is creating such an incredible experience that they will return – and maybe bring some friends.

Tourism season is upon us and as the San Juan Islands Visitors’ Bureau highlighted at its recent meeting, a lot of time and energy is being spent getting new folks to our county.

Once they step off that ferry, it’s up to us – business owners and community members alike – to make their time here as enjoyable as possible. That means being courteous, helpful and appreciative to travelers who have chosen to spend their hard-earned money in our special communities.

In auditor Milene Henley’s guest column last week, she wrote that sales tax for the first quarter of this year was nearly 9 percent higher than the same period last year.  It was still about 3 percent lower than 2010, and the second-worst first quarter in seven years. But it signifies an upturn.

In addition, through the first quarter of this year, lodging tax revenue is running 50 percent greater than in the same period last year, and 40 percent ahead of county budget.

So when families, wedding parties, and bicyclists share our islands with us, be grateful they chose to visit the place we call home.

And try some tourism right outside your door. Be a visitor in your own backyard: take your family – or your guests – to neighboring islands.

So it’s more important than ever to promote our businesses and create an incredibly positive customer experience so visitors keep coming back. If we want to keep our businesses thriving, we need to attract and keep tourists.