Yes, Port Angeles is a waterfront community all right. Even though, as you probably already know, all coastal towns have a waterfront, Port Angeles, for whatever reason, seems to think theirs is special, and has great untapped potential as a tourist magnet.
I think the untapped potential is very debatable. So let's focus on the existing waterfront, shall we? The waterfront as it really is. How is it viewed by some real, live tourists?
After visiting Port Townsend again, and enjoying how nice their downtown is again, I got curious about how visitors view downtown Port Angeles. So I spent a little time online checking that out...I decided to focus on the Red Lion and Crab House, because they are so prominent, they are right next to the ferry, and because the Chamber of Commerce meets there. With so much going for them - location! energy! - I figured these would surely be the best ambassadors for Port Angeles possible. Surely with their prominent location, our local business community wouldn't let these places be anything less than stellar.
To be fair, the Red Lion does better than the Crab House, garnering three stars (out of five) on Trip Advisor, and three and a half on Yelp. (See sample comments below for both.)
Meanwhile...Yikes! Don't eat at the Crab House. Wow. On Trip Advisor, it rates only three and a half stars out of five, and is ranked at #35 out of all the restaurants in Port Angeles. But that's better than its standing on Yelp, where it only manages two stars, and ranks at #49. Still, that's probably better that it does on Urban Spoon, where it gets only a 47% approval rating.
Yes, our crab cakes are made by hand...
For comparison...The Crab House comes in at #49 on Yelp, right? You can do better by crossing the street. The dingy little Dairy Queen comes in at #48. Yes, Dairy Queen beats the Crab House. On Trip Advisor, Baskin Robbins beats the Crab House. And I don't think it's as simple as more-people-like-ice-cream-than-crab.
I think it's illuminating to see what restaurants rank highest among in our town, and among visitors. And actually, it's not restaurants, it's a singular restaurant. Sabai Thai is rated #1 on both Yelp and Trip Advisor, with four and a half and five stars, respectively. On Urban Spoon, they get a whopping 97% - or, 50% more than the Crab House. What makes this illuminating is that Sabai Thai is not downtown (and thus is not burdened by the PADA), and is not involved with the Chamber of Commerce. They just do their thing, do it exceedingly well, and get the success and praise that comes from that, even in their out of the way location.
So my point is this...Our so-called business leaders and economic development gurus all frequently gather at some of the lousiest places in town and think that they're fine, just fine. They embrace and embody the low, low standards they set for the town. They never step out of their collective comfort zone. They never honestly try to improve their game. And it seems they never look at what people are saying about Port Angeles online, or they would know that something is wrong, terribly wrong. If these people really believe that tourism is the name of the game, they're out of touch with what people are saying, where people are spending their money, and clueless about the easy online tools available to give them some of this information.
Catch of the day at the Chamber luncheon!
And yet, these are the people, paid and otherwise, who are in charge of promoting Port Angeles to visitors? They of the dingy rooms and terrible food and hostility to the ONP? I find it difficult to believe that anyone really expects any sort of results from these people. How about you?
On Yelp and Trip Advisor, I found the following revealing reviews...All from within the past year, and most from people who live in our region. Does it sound like any of them will be big boosters of Port Angeles?
3/19/2014 - Crab House: Richelle from Vancouver, WA: "Awful. Terrible food, atrocious service. We waited a LONG time and half our meal never came. When I asked about it, the server said 'well, they're not very good anyways.'"
3/10/2014 - Red Lion: Joe from Spokane starts his review off with this great line: "For being Port Angeles, this isn't a terrible hotel." He then goes on to say "From the outside it looks like a sketchy, ghetto, like I need to lock my doors and shut my shades before going to sleep."
2/27/2014 - Red Lion and Crab House: Amanda from Australia: "Over priced and over rated. The restaurant is gaunt and the food barely edible (for fear of food borne illness)."
1/13/2014 - Red Lion: Dave from Portland, OR captures his experience with his header: "Outdated and overpriced."
12/28/2013 - Red Lion: John from Auburn in his three-out of -five star review also states the obvious: "This is Port Angeles." In other words, set your sights low, and you'll do okay.
12/28/2014 - Crab House: Beth from Surrey, B.C. says " Thought going to restaurant named "Crabhouse" would have a menu to die for...not so. Crab was frozen...no other seafood offered...Restaurant dirty..."
10/10/2013 - Crab House: Lola from Medford, Or says it all in the header or her review: "Skip this place!"
9/28/2013 - Red Lion: Kyle from Seattle starts off with what might be a new slogan for Port Angeles: "Not horrible, but definitely wasn't impressed."
9/16/2013 - Red Lion and Crab House: Heidi from Winlock had a lot to say in her one-star review: "I'm only giving the one star because our waitress at breakfast was very nice and friendly...Our room smelled like mildew and the heater/fan was so noisy you couldn't use it unless you were gone. The Crab House attached to it was horrible. Too expensive for what you get especially with bad service. Expect a trip to Your chiropractor after you sleep on these beds. Then when we told the front desk they just shrugged like they've heard it before. Someone needs to help this Red Lion or close it down!"
7/16/2013 - Crab House: Connie from Walnut, CA: "I would say that for the less than mediocre food, the prices were too high."
6/30/2013 - Red Lion: Phillip from Saint Paul, MN also caught the flavor of PA: "I can't complain too much since the town itself doesn't have many options."
6/14/2013 - Crab House: Laura from Seattle: "Higher prices, lower quality. Crab not fresh as usual."