Vashon tourist numbers increase as summer approaches
By Lucy Wing, Reporter
Vashon Island, only a ferry ride away from Seattle and Tacoma, is the perfect escape from the bustle of city life. Many come to the island to spend a weekend away with friends and family, and as the second summer of the pandemic approaches, tourist numbers continue to steadily increase.
Businesses on the island rely heavily on the tourist economy, meaning they tend to notice when tourist numbers are going up around the island.
“[Island Queen] has a very clear perspective when the tourists come because we have a backwards drive through. For the past year, everyone has known how to do the drive through, but we can tell the tourists have started to come by the number of people who approach the drive through from the wrong way,” Island Queen owner Jennifer Harvey said.
Most Vashon residents have noticed the increase in tourism by now— the streets are busier, more clueless bikers fill the roads, and the sidewalks through Vashon town are often bustling.
“[Tourism] is definitely higher than last year, and I would say on par with the year before.” Vashon Adventures owner Erin Kieper said.
Vashon Adventures is a local business that rents out electric bikes, paddleboards, and kayaks for recreational use. Many of Kieper’s customers are tourists from surrounding areas who come to Vashon for some fun.
“The people we talk to are from Seattle, Tacoma, and even as far as Portland. They come to Vashon as a refuge to get away from heavier populations.” Kieper said.
Vashon Island provides a great location for a weekend getaway, and without having to travel far, it is ideal for many wishing to escape the house for a while.
“People are so pent up. They have such a desire to get out, and Vashon has done a wonderful job of being [a] safe community. VashonBePrepared has done an incredible job and it’s known Vashon is a safe place to be able to come.” Harvey said.
As summer approaches and vaccine distribution continues, higher rates of tourism are expected and safety is still a primary precaution.
“Tourists are as good as locals about masks and social distancing. If people are traveling with friends, everyone has been tested and they’re traveling in a bubble.” Kieper said.
Most tourists coming to Vashon stay for day trips or overnight in Airbnbs. Amy Broomhall, who works to clean Airbnbs on Vashon, noted the increase in people staying on the island.
“When the pandemic hit everything shut down, but it started picking up again last summer. Recently I’ve noticed this massive uptick in people renting Airbnbs and it’s been steady since then.” she said.
With the increase in renters also comes a wider variety of people staying in Airbnbs.
“Since the pandemic we’ve had a lot of guests that are less cleanly. They’re more used to staying in a hotel and have different expectations of what an Airbnb is supposed to be.” Broomhall said.
With summer right around the corner, island businesses are predicting high tourist numbers, so Vashon residents ought to prepare for long ferry lines, lots of people out and about, more bikers on the road, and that Vashon summer buzz back in the air.
“If March is any indicator of where we’re headed, [summer] is going to be really, really busy.” Harvey said.