Travel, event planning business opens in downtown Oak Harbor

Iris Gutman, Oak Harbor Travel and Event Planning owner, has more than 34 years of  hospitality experience. - Sara Hansen/Whidbey News-Times
Iris Gutman, Oak Harbor Travel and Event Planning owner, has more than 34 years of hospitality experience.
— image credit: Sara Hansen/Whidbey News-Times

If you look up at the second level of a building in historic downtown Oak Harbor, you might see a silhouette of a wolf.

“I love wolves,” Iris Gutman said. “He’s guarding my business.”

Gutman started Oak Harbor Travel and Event Planning a year ago out of her home and just moved into an office on 801 S.E. Pioneer Way.

She moved to Oak Harbor two years ago to be closer to her children, who live on Vancouver Island and at Whistler. She has three grandchildren she loves to visit.

“It’s all about family,” Gutman said.

She chose Oak Harbor because she liked the feeling she got when she arrived.

“The small town, make yourself at home feeling,” she said. “This is where I want to live, this is where I want to fish, this is where I want to play.”

For 34 years, Gutman has worked in the hospitality industry, and she’s happy to bring that experience to Oak Harbor.

“I thought, ‘What could I do to bring revenue to Whidbey Island?’”

She wasn’t always in the hospitality industry. Originally, she started out teaching but applied for a job in sales at a full-service convention center. At the first conference she ever ran, only 250 people were expected to attend. That number quickly ballooned to 1,200 attendees, and she had to figure out how to make it work.

“It was crazy, I had people sleeping in my office,” Gutman said.

A baby (which was named after her) was even born at the conference, she said.

“Every hotelier has experiences that are just jaw-dropping,” she said.

After that, Gutman was hooked and knew she was on the right career path.

Gutman used to work in Helena, Mont. Because the city is between Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, she was responsible for organizing trips, events and everything in between. She’s been a step-on guide for tour buses too.

Using her past experience, Gutman organized a two groups to come and visit the island last summer— one from Alberta, Canada, and another from California. With all the history the island has, many retirees and travelers would enjoy the area, she said.

“A travel agency is not a thing of the past, I’m here to help you,” Gutman

For example, if people are  planning a family reunion, they can come to her. She can arrange for the hotel rooms, where they want to hold a dinner party, organize a barbecue or even book a sailing trip  — Gutman said she takes care of all that.

“I’m your employee from the minute you dream until the last person leaves,” Gutman said.

She can also host fundraising trips for nonprofit groups as an option to raise money.


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