Travel Community Praises Passage of National Parks Bill

U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow issued the following statement on Senate passage of the Great American Outdoors Act (H.R. 1957):

“Our national parks are more critical centers of travel and tourism than ever, and the Senate has done a very wise thing to prioritize this legislation to support their upkeep. In addition to the greatly positive impact on the infrastructure and maintenance needs at national parks, and this bill will also help protect the use of public lands for the travel- and tourism-dependent recreation industry.

“Data is showing conclusively that Americans are much more comfortable traveling by car and recreating outdoors as we continue to cope with the pandemic, which will make national parks very important leisure travel destinations for the foreseeable future.

“Given their vital role as drivers for the regional economies around them, national parks are cornerstones not only of America’s cultural and geographical heritage, but also of American prosperity. In 2019 alone, national parks welcomed 327 million visitors who contributed $41.7 billion to the economy and supported 340,500 jobs.

“We thank Sen. Gardner, Sen. Daines and Sen. Manchin for their leadership on this bill, and we look forward to continuing to work with Congress on measures to secure the future of our national parks for all Americans.”

Photo Credit: Travel Tacoma

Covid-19 Small Business and Rural Community Webinar 6-11-20

On Thursday 6/11, the WTA held a special small business and rural webinar. 

Re-opening guidelines leave many questions for small businesses, but our speakers helped provide some answers. We also heard from one community’s mayor about the challenges of re-opening and there was a lengthy Q&A at the end. 

 Lauren Jenks – Assistant Secretary of Environmental Public Health in the Department of Health

Lauren discussed the new guidelines and the role her office plays in managing this crisis. 

Jeff Spann – Industrial Hygienist in the Division of Occupational Safety & Health consultation of the Department of Labor and Industry

Jeff works with a variety of different industries and spoke about safety and health for both the public and employees of small businesses in the tourism industry, such as outfitters, B&Bs, small hotels, and restaurants. 

Mayor Soo Ing-Moody – Mayor of Twisp, WA

Mayor Ing-Moody discussed how the town of Twisp, located in the popular tourism region in the Methow Valley, is proactively working with local businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.   

To view a recording click here. Use this password: : 3N^6Ft@#

Newly Released State Tourism Statistics Mark Stunning Decline from Coronavirus Between 2019 and 2020

Impact Underscores Role of Industry as Economic Driver During Recovery

Olympia, Wash. – Figures released today by the Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) indicate that tourism in Washington State logged double digit growth during the past five years – generating $10.9 billion in direct state GDP in 2019 alone – before the industry’s near total shut down in 2020 due to COVID-19.

     Visitor volume, expenditures, tax contributions and tourism jobs all increased in 2019, according to Economic Impacts of Visitors in Washington State, compiled by national travel research firm Tourism Economics for the WTA.  Visitor volume increased by 2.0 percent last year to a total of 110 million visitors in the state, and direct visitor spending totaled $21.9 billion, up 4.5 percent in current dollars over 2018. On average, visitors spent $60 million per day in Washington State last year.

     However, Washington State has experienced a dramatic decline in tourism in 2020 due to the global pandemic. Since the beginning of March, visitor spending in Washington has declined by $3.8 billion compared with last year’s figures. Traveler spending in Washington has averaged losses of 77 percent over the past 12 weeks. Hotel room revenue alone has declined 72 percent between March 1 and May 23. And in April alone, Seattle Tacoma International Airport experienced a decrease of 93.6 percent in passenger volume, compared with April 2019; international traffic decreased 97.1 percent and domestic traffic decreased 93.1 percent.

     “Our state’s tourism industry has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” said WTA Interim Executive Director David Blandford. “That impact was sudden and severe in every industry sector and immediately undercut funding for nonprofit destination marketing programs needed to jumpstart economic recovery and sustain jobs.”

     Continued loss of tourism jobs in Washington remains a major concern – in the tourism industry and beyond. The state’s tourism industry supported more than 165,000 jobs in 2019, an increase of 2.3 percent over the previous year, and these jobs generated direct income of $5.7 billion. While these tourism industry jobs represent 3.5 percent of all jobs in the state, the economic activity supported by visitors supports a total of 5.1 percent of all jobs in Washington.

     This year, COVID-19 has acutely damaged employment in Washington State’s travel sector, according to Tourism Economics’ analysis. Job losses within the leisure and hospitality sector represented 42 percent of all job losses in the state through the end of April. Through the week ending May 16, there have been 1.2 million unemployment claims in Washington. This implies over half a million jobs lost in the leisure and hospitality sector.

     “Because such a large share of job losses are related to travel, an economic recovery can only come through a restoration of travel to and within Washington state,” said Adam Sacks, President of Tourism Economics.     

     The loss of taxes paid by visitors also deeply impacts the tourism industry, as well as Washington citizens and cities and counties throughout the state. Each household in Washington would need to be taxed an additional $1,065 to replace the visitor taxes received by state and local governments last year. State and local taxes, generated by direct visitor spending, tallied nearly $2.4 billion in 2019, a 5.4% increase over 2018.

     Transient occupancy taxes (lodging taxes) – which have quickly declined amid the pandemic – are imposed in all of Washington’s 39 counties (by both counties and many cities within) and revenue derived from lodging taxes supports tourism related facilities, events and marketing. The severe shortfall in lodging tax receipts has also deeply impacted the state’s non-profit destination marketing organizations (DMOs) with drastic reductions to tourism marketing programs and staff layoffs of 30-70 percent.

     “While a full recovery will likely take several years, we’re hopeful that a rebound in travel and tourism can begin in earnest this summer, and accelerate as we move into 2021,” said Blandford. “Our industry is prepared to do its part by promoting safe and responsible travel, but investment in tourism marketing and recovery is critical to its ability to recover visitor volume, expenditures, tax revenue and employment for our state,” said Blandford.

     This is the first year that the WTA has collaborated with Tourism Economics to compile its annual state visitation report. In addition to this benchmark 2019 report, The WTA asked

Tourism Economics to include a five-year look back report to ensure consistency in annual reporting. According to the reports, between 2015 and 2019, Washington State achieved double digit tourism growth. Visitor spending increased 4.8 percent per annum between 2015 and 2019 and tourism employment saw cumulative growth of 15 percent.

Washington State Tourism Research Snapshot

2019 Tourism Impact

  • Visitor volume increased by 2.0 percent last year to a total of 110 million visitors in Washington in 2019
  • Direct visitor spending totaled $21.9 billion, up 4.5 percent in current dollars over 2018
  • On average, visitors spent $60 million per day in Washington State in 2019
  • Statewide, the tourism industry supported more than 165,000 jobs in 2019, generating $5.7 billion in direct income
  • State and local taxes, generated by direct visitor spending, tallied nearly $2.4 billion in 2019.  Each household in Washington would need to be taxed an additional $1,065 to replace the visitor taxes received by state and local governments last year

2020 Impact of Covid-19 on Washington State Tourism

  • Since March 1, visitor spending in Washington has declined by $3.8 billion compared with last year’s figures
  • Traveler spending in Washington has averaged losses of 77 percent over the past 12 weeks
  • Hotel room revenue alone has declined 72 percent between March 1 and May 23
  • In select cities and communities hotel occupancy has dropped in to the single digits
  • Transient occupancy taxes (lodging taxes), which are imposed in all 39 counties (by both counties and cities) have quickly declined amid the pandemic
  • The dramatic loss of lodging taxes will impact destination marketing organizations, as well influence city and county governments budget and expenses statewide
  • For the month of April 2020, Seattle Tacoma International Airport experienced a decrease of 93.6 percent over April of 2019.  International traffic was down by 97.1 percent and domestic passenger traffic dropped 93.1 percent
  • As of April 30, job losses within the leisure and hospitality sector represented 42 percent of all job losses in the state
  • Through May 16, there have been 1.2 million unemployment claims in Washington, which represents over half a million jobs lost in the leisure and hospitality sector

About the Washington Tourism Alliance

The Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) is a 501[c]6 organization established by industry stakeholders with the sole mission of sustaining Washington State destination tourism marketing. The WTA procures and administers funds for state destination tourism marketing activities and creates and implements a strategic statewide destination marketing plan.

WTA Media Contact: Mike Moe (425) 444-0589/

COVID-19 Webinar 5-1-20

On 5/1/20 the WTA hosted a webinar around the response to the Covid-19. Over 300 tourism professionals from all over Washington State participated.

The webinar featured the new Interim Executive Director, David Blandford who discussed tourism spending trends. David was joined by 3 industry experts

Jon Snyder – Governor’s Senior Policy Advisor, Outdoor Recreation & Economic Development. Jon gave an update on the Governor’s most recent order and what it means for the tourism industry in Washington.

Chris Green – Assistant Director, Office of Economic Development and Competitiveness. Chris outlined the resources available to tourism-related businesses in Washington.

Anthony Anton – CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association
Anthony previewed guidelines that are being developed for the hospitality industry to safely and responsibly reopen their doors to tourists.

To view a recording of the webinar, click here.

Covid-19: Business Resources

Dear Partners:

The tourism industry in Washington and throughout the world is facing an unprecedented crisis. While we’re hopeful that our state can slowly begin to open in May, but the return to normalcy will be counted in years rather than months. The WTA remains committed to doing everything possible to keep our partners and industry stakeholders connected to the resources they need to navigate this crisis. We are continuing to work with industry leaders to remind legislators about the importance of tourism to our economy and to craft guidelines to safely reopen tourism-related businesses in our state.

Here is an updated list of links to help you find the resources you need:

Federal Resources CARES Act: This toolkit provided by US Travel helps tourism-related businesses and organizations navigate the full CARES Act. US Travel also has provided a helpful FAQ about the CARES Act.

  • Paycheck Protection Program (PPP): Congressional leaders and the administration forged an agreement to supplement the program. The $481 billion agreement provides an additional $321 billion for the PPP, $60 billion for the EIDL program, $75 billion for healthcare providers and $25 billion to expand testing capacity (including $11 billion for states to increase testing).
  • SBA Debt Relief: The SBA is providing a financial reprieve to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. This covers all principal, interest and fees on current and new SBA 7(a) loans made through September 27, 2020 for up to six months.
  • Express Bridge Loan: The SBA’s Express Bridge Loan allows small businesses that have an existing business relationship with a participating lender to access up to $25,000 quickly.

Small Business Development Centers: These centers will help you navigate available SBA loans and provide you with no-cost business consulting.
Export Credit Insurance: This program protects you in case your customers overseas are slow on paying receivables or go out of business. It allows you to commit to export sales without fear of loss during the pandemic.

State Resources

  • On 4/27 Governor Inslee announced easing of outdoor restrictions.
  • The Department of Commerce has created a list of COVID-19 Business Resources.
  • Small Business Resiliency Assistance: offering technical assistance for small business owners from culturally and historically disadvantaged communities.
  • Small Business COVID-19 Back-to-Work Planner: (Part 1) is designed to help plan the steps necessary to open your business once the state says it’s safe to do so.
  • Humanities Washington Grant: Humanities Washington is honored to provide rapid-response funding to humanities and cultural non-profit organizations in Washington State facing financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus. Funding for this grant is provided by the CARES Act and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
  •  Washington Hospitality Association: A coronavirus resource guide for the restaurant and lodging industry.

If you have questions or other resources, please don’t hesitate to communicate with us. Contact Mike Moe at

WTA Names David Blandford as Interim Executive Director

The Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) announced the appointment of David Blandford as its Interim Executive Director, effective May 4, 2020. Blandford will lead the organization’s marketing activities in addition to a growing range of initiatives related to COVID-19, including tourism industry recovery and crisis communications.

“David has in-depth knowledge of Washington tourism, the current challenges we face, an optimistic, pragmatic view for the future, and excellent relationships with our stakeholders here in the state as well as across the country and internationally,” said Shiloh Burgess, WTA Chair. “He is the ideal person to take the helm for the WTA at this time, having served on our Board of Directors since 2012 and as Co-Chair since 2018.” He joins veteran WTA staff members Mike Moe, Managing Director, and Diana Thibado, Director of Operations. The team of three will lead WTA marketing and operations with a concerted emphasis in COVID-19 tourism industry recovery and business mitigation.

“We’ve had the opportunity to closely work with David as Co-Chair over the past two years,” said Moe. “We’re excited about the continuity of his leadership and the future of the WTA.” Blandford was part of the industry group that fought to preserve state tourism office funding in 2009-2010 and inaugurated the Washington Tourism Alliance to re-establish tourism funding after the tourism office closed in 2011. 

A 30-year veteran of the tourism industry, Blandford brings extensive marketing, communications and public affairs experience at the local, state and national travel and tourism industry levels. He began his industry career running press trips across Washington State as part of a contract with the state tourism office. In his tenure with the Seattle News Bureau and Visit Seattle, Blandford worked extensively with the state tourism office and the private sector industry to promote Washington State and its various destinations in both domestic and international markets. 

He most recently served as Senior Vice President, Public Affairs at Visit Seattle, 2017-2020. He previously held several other positions with the organization including Vice President, Communications and Director of Public Relations. During his tenure, he gained extensive experience with destination marketing, brand development, destination research, consumer and industry social media, web site development, blog creation and management and photography and video production. 

Blandford led PR missions in European and Asian tourism markets and worked in tandem with a broader travel trade team in the city, state and with partnering states. He wrote Visit Seattle’s crisis communications plan and managed events and business recovery initiatives related to WTO, the Nisqually earthquake, 9/11 and the 2008 recession. 

He is a long-time member of the U.S. Travel Association’s Communications Committee, actively supporting and defending the national travel and tourism industry through policy, public affairs and communications. Blandford is a current member of Destination International’s Advocacy Committee and a 20-year member of the Society of American Travel Writers and Public Relations Society of American, serving in various leadership roles with both associations. 

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Blandford. “This industry needs support, and we’ll need to find new ways to promote and sustain travel during the ongoing COVID-19 issue. I’m committed to both, and to working with our industry partners.”

WTA Member Email 4/20/20

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, our industry has been severely impacted. Through our research, we know that visitation to Washington is down over 70% and this doesn’t include the loss of business from our in-state customers.  And we’ve heard from so many of you and understand the significant challenges you face.

For many years, the WTA has relied on our amazing members for support and we can’t thank you enough. As a token of our appreciation, we would like to offer those who have paid their 2020 membership dues a credit for advertising on ExperienceWA for the dollar total of your membership. This credit can be used at any time in 2020 or 2021. Contact me at or at 425-444-0589 to learn more. For those who have not paid for membership this year, we completely understand that you need to prioritize your business and employees during this crisis. We will extend your membership through the rest of 2020.

Additionally, the WTA will continue to provide the most up-to-date information on how businesses can utilize federal and state resources to stay afloat during this crisis. Make sure to regularly check our industry website, for the most current information. In the meantime, we would like to give you an update on what the WTA is actively working on to provide support to our members and industry stakeholders.

The WTA recently launched a new website called that gives Washingtonians a chance to support their local tourism-related businesses by purchasing gift cards now for later use. This project is completely free for businesses and users and so far close to 1000 businesses have been listed. If you offer an online gift card and would like to set up a free listing, just go to and click on Post a Listing or click here. It only takes 2 minutes. If you don’t have an online gift card option, but want one, click here to quickly and easily make one.

Please continue to communicate with the WTA and your regional DMO partners. Our industry has never faced a challenge like this, but if we work together and use our collective ingenuity, we will come out of this stronger than ever before.

Covid-19: Utilizing the US CARES Act


Dear Partner, 

On March 27th, the President signed into law the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” (the CARES Act), the largest economic relief act in our country’s history. The tourism industry in Washington has been devastated by this crisis, but tourism-related businesses can find relief through new or strengthened existing federal programs as a result of this legislation.

Click here for a helpful guide to relief is available to different types of businesses or organizations.

Click here for an explanation of the Small Business Administration Coronavirus Economic Injury Disaster Loans. *Grants of up to $10,000 is available within three days, regardless of approval: A cash advance (grant) of the loan, up to $10,000, can be provided to the borrower upon request. SBA is required to provide the grant within three days of receiving the loan application. The grant is provided regardless of whether the borrower is ultimately approved for the loan and does not have to be repaid. 

Click here to learn about Small Business Express Loans. These are for small businesses who need quick a one-time loan for a major expense. Example: A restaurant needs to replace a walk-in refrigerator. 

Click here for a guide on the Emergency Stabilization Fund. 

Click here to learn about Economic Relief for Airports and Tourism, including Community Development Block Grants.

Here is more information on Business Tax Provisions including payroll tax deferral. Click here for more information.

It is expected that the U.S. Treasury, Small Business Association and other agencies will need some time to fully implement these resources and application features, though it is hoped that most will be operational in the next two weeks.

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