Results are in from the Islands-Wide Survey about Tourism and Visitor Management in the San Juan Islands. Conducted by Confluence Research and Consulting, the 2019 survey canvassed residents and businesses on a variety of issues related to the impacts of visitors to the islands. The Confluence results are available on the San Juan County Land Bank website along with a summary of findings.
The 67-page report includes breakdowns of results by the business community and residents. One finding that differs from the county government's beliefs regards vacation rentals. The county says they do not have an impact on availability of housing. According to the study:
"There was wide acknowledgement among residents that vacation rentals reduce long-term housing affordability. Residents recognize economic benefits from tourism, but also that tourism-related crowding reduces the quality of visitor experiences and has negative impacts on the environment."
"A higher percentage of businesses than residents recognized the economic benefits from tourism, but most agreed that vacation rentals reduce affordability of long-term rentals."
The survey was a project of the Terrestrial Managers Group (TMG), a chartered collaborative of local, state, and federal conservation land managers in the County. The research originated out of the desire to better understand the level and kinds of visitation to the County’s natural areas and to give voice to local investment and interests. The results will inform science-based decisions for management of these areas while maintaining the best visitor experiences possible.
“This concludes an effort started in 2015. Taking the results from surveys of visitors, residents, and businesses opinions toward tourism issues, and possible solutions, really gives us some great information to help address stewardship concerns across all public and non-profit conservation lands, for present and future generations,” said Lincoln Bormann, Chair of the TMG and Director of the San Juan County Conservation Land Bank. “We hope the results will be incorporated into forth-coming planning efforts, such as developing a Sustainable Tourism Master Plan, and when making decisions about how the County can retain quality experiences for both locals and visitors.”