A rural, Pacific Northwest destination known for its rugged outdoor beauty, vibrant arts and a creative culinary crowd, Whidbey and Camano Islands immediately moved their energy in March to please curious travelers remotely.
The sights, sounds and flavors of Whidbey and Camano Islands became available through digital tours and recipes found here https://whidbeycamanoislands.com/escape-it-all/
Armchair travelers continue to explore a new content library featuring tours, tastings, and profiles of iconic island activities, locations and characters.
“As we weather this worldwide health crisis, we want to connect the creativity and beauty of the islands with our visitors,” said Sherrye Wyatt, PR and marketing manager at Whidbey and Camano Island Tourism. “Until we can physically welcome our visitors back, we are offering a series of experiences available at home.”
The series kicked off with a whale watching experience in Puget Sound, a meet and greet with local artist Georgia Gerber in her home studio, and more. A new topic continues to be added weekly. The inaugural launch included:
- See the whales of Whidbey and Camano Islands on a virtual tour of Saratoga Passage in Puget Sound.
- Meet Georgia Gerber, Whidbey Island’s artist known for her iconic bronze sculptures, including Pike Place Market’s famous piggy bank, “Rachel.” https://whidbeycamanoislands.com/artist-portrait-georgia-gerber/
- Discover Deception Pass, explore the seasons and characters of Washington state’s iconic destination and most visited state park. https://whidbeycamanoislands.com/deception-pass-state-park/
- Camano Island Honey has about 1.5 to 2 million bees busy pollinating plants on the island and making honey. It all began because one woman’s garden was not doing very well. Now, she’s responsible for an estimated one-third of the island’s honeybees. https://whidbeycamanoislands.com/camano-island-honey/
Whidbey and Camano Islands also continue to promote a collection of restaurants open for take-out and delivery service featured here.
By mid-June ,Island County was one of the first in Washington state to move into Phase 3, which includes non-essential travel. However, there is a wide range of opinions regarding appropriate behavior and no definitive moment for when the crisis will be over.
“While government restrictions gradually eased, each of us individually must determine for ourselves when things like dining out, travel, or going to a movie is appropriate, even if they are allowed,” said Wyatt. “Our creative team was left with the question of how to create messaging that’s appropriate during an emergency lockdown, but still works during the eventual transition? Both of our campaigns encourage people to daydream and plan.”
As Island County wrestled with how to respond to the crisis and potentially regulate behavior, it became apparent that a countywide marketing effort would be appropriate. There was strong desire to make it easier for visitors to understand what is expected of them when visiting here.
Tourism developed a campaign with a figure much like “Smokey the Bear” to remind visitors that, just like in their own towns, there are rules in place including social distancing, washing your hands and wearing masks.
By working with Island County Public Health, Gail the Whale was born, to communicate a variety of safety messaging. The character-based campaign includes transit advertising on the county’s free bus system as well as signage throughout the islands.
Though aimed primarily at visitors, the campaign has expanded to reach island residents. The campaign went from a vague concept to printed posters in May so content was ready in time for the Memorial Day weekend.
As part of a larger recovery plan to bring visitors back, Whidbey and Camano Islands work very closely with state, national, and even international partners by monitoring messaging and collaborating efforts to eventually fill lodgings once more.
The Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) launched two new campaigns to encourage purchasing gift certificates for future travel and ideas for inspiring visitors to return www.ShowWALove.com and https://adventures.experiencewa.com/.