No bridge, no problem

"No bridge - No problem" is an advertising campaign focused on enticing Seattle tourists to the Olympic Peninsula during the Hood Canal bridge's six-week closure.

The May 1 closure date is a major problem to communities dependent on the tourism season as the bridge serves as the main entrance to the Olympic Peninsula from Seattle.

The Olympic Peninsula Tourism Commission, a collaboration of peninsula chambers of commerce, has coalesced to promote "No bridge - No problem."

Utilizing money from the state hotel/motel tax, the commission seeks to advertise in Seattle with the "No bridge - No problem" slogan in print, radio and online. Discussions are in process over particular amounts, mediums and locations.

The Web site, made by Inside-Out Solutions of Sequim, will launch in March with coupons for any businesses interested in participating.

Steve Dunston, an employee with Inside-Out, won a contest where employees received $50 for picking the plan's name.

The "No bridge- No problem" logo was designed by Jim McCauley at Inside-Out Designs.

"This one looks most welcoming and isn't negative. We had one with a font that looked too militaristic," said Pat McCauley owner of Inside-Out Marketing.

"We have to do promotion to attract people here while the bridge is closed ... We want to create value- added reasons for coming here," said Pat McCauley, Coupons can be changed anytime to accommodate the provider and have any expiration date.

"We're trying to get nontourism businesses to participate," said Russ Veenema of the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce.

"In a way, it is a 'shop local' campaign."

Maps with alternate routes to the peninsula will be provided via the Web site because online map services will not show the bridge's closure until May 1.

Both coupons and maps will be linked through the participating chambers' Web sites.

The effort is not just to inform people about the closure but to have a lasting impact on travelers' minds.

"If people find out that it works well, then we'll keep it," McCauley said about the "No bridge - No problem" advertising.

The commission is working to make sure the Washington Department of Transportation's

call center is up to date about the closure and

can provide alternate routes and tourist ideas

on the peninsula.

DOT has sent a representative to the commission's meetings for the past 21/2 years.

At the latest commission meeting on Feb. 5, DOT representatives said the bridge retrofit is still on schedule for May 1.

DOT will spend $80,000 to advertise the closure to peninsula residents. Tentatively, March to April 30 messages will advertise the bridge's closure and how to get ready, and May and June ads will address how to get around the closure.

Local businesses are fully aware of the closure.

"It's bad timing ... If this was done a few months sooner, then this would have been easier on all local businesses," said Barbara Shipman, co-owner of Lavender and Lace.

"I don't think any of us know what will happen. It's not a major problem. We'll see where the economy goes," said Jean Haught, owner of Dungeness Bay Wine and Cheese.

Damien Humphries, franchise owner of Sequim Quality Inn, feels optimistic that new marketing in Portland and the state of Oregon will offset the closure of the bridge.

"It will have some effect, but the forward-thinking by the chambers and commission will make things a lot better than people are fearing," said Humphries.

"Who knows how many people will come over here who have never been here before because of this?" McCauley asked.

In Sequim, the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce has presented new information on the closure in its monthly newsletters.

The visitors center at 1192 E. Washington St. offers various brochures on the closure, including options for medical emergencies, said Vickie Maples, Sequim chamber executive director.

Matthew Nash can be reached at mnash@sequim

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