Record file — Passengers disembark from San Juan Clipper at South Whidbey Harbor on April 1.

Clipper Vacations to return with holiday trips

Boatloads of holiday daytrippers onboard the Victoria Clipper will touch down at South Whidbey Harbor in December.

Clipper Vacations, which shuttles up to 200 people on its boats for excursions across Puget Sound, announced it will add new trips to the Village by the Sea during the weekends.

Seeing as how the company’s treks were a success this past Spring, it will likely bring a welcome injection of cash, according to the Langley Chamber of Commerce.

“This offers a unique opportunity for people from off-island to get to know Langley,” Inge Morascini, executive director of the Langley Chamber of Commerce, said. “It was a success when they came in the spring, and that was with the intent of whale watching with a lunch stop in Langley. This time, they’ll spend most of the afternoon in town.”

Visitors departing from Seattle will step foot in Langley most Saturdays and Sundays in December, with the exception of Christmas Eve and the last weekend of the month. To discuss the stops with Langley business owners, representatives from Clipper Vacations will hold a meeting at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday morning at Langley City Hall. The meeting is open to Langley Chamber of Commerce members.

According to Clipper Vacations Director of Product Della Tall, visitors will have a four-hour window to explore the city from 12:45 to 4:45 p.m.

Tall says the company is trying something different with this day trip, as the excursions to Langley are a litmus test for a potential annual holiday travel option.

“We’re really testing something new as a company with Langley as a key partner,” Tall said. “This is the first time we’re just bringing people to town instead of making a quick lunch stop on a whale watching tour. Going forward, I’d say this is a pilot for the holiday season to try to design different events for the future.”

According to Tall, Clipper Vacations brought 2,154 visitors to Langley this past spring for the company’s whale watching tours. Downtown Langley business owners reported an influx of customers during what is typically a slow season, with some days “better than a summer Saturday,” according to Sweet Mona’s Chocolate Boutique owner Mona Newbauer.

Morascini is hopeful businesses will see a similar spike this winter. The chamber will design gift guides to put on the vessels, and Morascini added they will work with Langley Main Street Association to spruce up the streets with holiday flavor and street performers. Couple that with the fact visitors are staying in town twice as long this time, the business boost could potentially be larger.

“When I looked at some of the traffic for the local retailers, it could potentially double their Christmas sales,” Morascini said. “Of course that’s anecdotal information. But if 30 percent of the Clipper audience goes into a shop, it could potentially double the sales for some businesses.”

According to Curt Gordon, Port of South Whidbey commissioner, the added influx of daytrippers shows the public is getting its money’s worth. The port added 330 feet of dock space to South Whidbey Harbor with a $1.7 million project that wrapped up in 2014. It made it possible for larger cruise boats to tie up in Langley.

Gordon said port commissioners wanted to bring Clipper and similar companies to Langley “for years.”

“This totally justifies all that effort put into it,” Gordon said.

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