Island tourism threatened by COVID-19
By Wendy Axtelle, Reporter
Due to Governor Inslee’s stay at home order, social events and access to certain activities is limited. With spring flying past and summer fast approaching, all while COVID-19 continues to be a pressing issue in the region, more and more events are being cancelled. For Vashon, this is no exception.
Summer is typically a busy time in Vashon due to the large population of summer residents and tourists. If coronavirus continues to be a serious threat into the summer months, Vashon can likely expect some serious changes.
“Vashon is highly funded by tourism,” said Elaine Ott-Rocheford, Vashon Parks Director.
One group that benefits from the increased summer population is the Vashon Park District. Included in its list of summer events are Music in the Park, multiple summer camps, and the Low Tide Festival.
Smaller events that might be overlooked are also being taken off the summer agenda.
“With our summer camps like skating or sailing it’s hard to schedule dates,” Parks Recreation Director Erik Wyatt said. “I am hesitant to schedule anything before August.”
With mass cancellations, parks are faced to look at how their summer income will be impacted. Rentals and reservations of Park spaces have decreased significantly.
“People don’t want to make reservations with so much uncertainty,” Ott-Rocheford said.
Though rentals are down for the near future, it’s more difficult to predict for the end of summer.
“I am confident we should be able to start renting again,” Wyatt said. “July and August look good.”
Vashon Island is not just known for its amazing nature and parks but also its arts and culture.
Darragh Kennan is the Associate Executive director for the Vashon Center for the Arts, but he also runs a roundtable discussion for island artists. Lately, the decrease in tourism has been a key topic of conversation and concern.
“We are differentially dependent on it,” Kennan said. “We will definitely see a big impact. … Everyone has had to cancel things. VCA had cancellations starting in early March. … we are now looking at June.”
Vashon artists have had to work together to find new ways to produce content.
“We have talked alot about how we can help artists,” said Kennan. “Lots of artists have switched to virtual events.”
With the decrease in summer tourism, islanders can see the impacts making their way towards the island’s artists.
“There is no doubt that a drop in tourism would affect the island economy,” Ott-Rochefordsaid.
With Vashons economy threatened by a decrease in tourism decrease the island still has hope for later in summer, and the VCA’s saying of “Artists will always endure” encapsulates such hope.