Shutdown: West End feels tourism impact from federal gridlock

By Joe Smillie, Forks Forum Editor


Last week’s shutdown of the federal government has taken its toll on the West End’s tourism business.


“We have a lot of very, very disappointed people,” said Lissy Andros, director of the Forks Chamber of Commerce.


“A lot of people that have been planning their trips out here for years to see the national parks — and arrive disappointed.”


People like a group of German tourists who showed up last week to take the Twi-Foot tour offered by Nino and Rosemary Colandrea.


Among other stops in the area, the Colandrea’s tour bus regularly brings its guests out to Olympic National Park sites, including the Hoh Rain Forest.


“Instead, we get a group of very disappointed German tourists,” Nino said.


He was in the Forks Chamber of Commerce office, fretting over where he would take these long-scheduled tourists with the shutdown of Lake Crescent, Kalaloch and Sol Duc Hot Springs lodges in Olympic National Park.


Had to check out

On Oct. 1, guests at the park’s lodges were given 48-hours notice to check out as ONP shut down.
Tourism is big business on the West End, said Diane Schostak, executive director for the Olympic Peninsula Visitors Bureau.


“It’s very important out there,” Schostack said. “And we’ve had just an absolutely stellar year in terms of tourism all across the Peninsula.”


Hotel/motel bed tax receipts are up, she said, noting the Peninsula still offers opportunities for tourists.


“We’re taking advantage of this time when the park is shut down to promote the things outside the park,” Schostack said.


Other areas

In particular, she noted the alternatives to the national park are park areas in tribal areas, particularly on the Makah Reservation.


“And the leaves are just as pretty this fall outside the park as they are inside the park,” Schostack said.


Andros said the chamber is taking a similar tactic.


“This is a beautiful place. So we’re trying to steer them in different directions,” Andros said.


Finding those alternatives for tourists who hit the West End after the peak summer season is key to businesses dependent upon the revenue.


“This is when you need people the most. When they aren’t beating down your door like they are in the summer,” she said.


Fortunately, a good salmon run in local rivers this year is helping keep tourism dollars in the area’s hotels and restaurants.


“Fishing is probably one of our saving graces,” Andros said.

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