Tourism is “Open for Business” Following Skagit River I-5 Bridge Collapse

News Release
May 31, 2013
 
 Media Contact:
David Blandford
(206) 713-8314
dblandford@visitseattle.org
 
Tourism is “Open for Business” Following
Skagit River I-5 Bridge Collapse
As first June weekend approaches, tourism and government officials promote
travel outreach campaign, mobile apps and other tools offered to encourage travel

Skagit

Mount Vernon, WA  – Destination marketing organizations continue to work in tandem with the Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) in the wake of the Skagit River I-5 bridge collapse to insure that travelers keep on traveling during the traditionally busy summer auto travel season.

“This was the perfect storm – right before the Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial start to the summer travel season,” said Louise Stanton-Masten, WTA Executive Director. “We went right to work with our statewide network of tourism professionals, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), the state Department of Commerce and Governor Inslee’s office. We immediately agreed to proactively communicate that Mount Vernon, the San Juan Islands, Whidbey and Camano Islands, Bellingham and others in Northwestern Washington State remain open for business and that alternate routes were available.”

The WTA posted travel advisories on its consumer travel web site, www.experiencewa.com, and linked to the web sites of affected destination marketing organizations which, in turn, conveyed critical travel bulletins and real-time tips for the general public to let them know that business and detour routes were open.

“Our community has come together and is focusing on the clean up and repair of the bridge as well as keeping traffic moving,” said  Kristen Keltz, President/CEO of the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce in a message to constituents. “There are alternate routes set up throughout our communities. WSDOT has been amazing at making adjustments wherever needed to ensure the least amount of back up. We will be starting a campaign today and through the weekend with the message Skagit County is ‘worth the trip.’ This is a major economic arterial that will affect our entire state! We appreciate all the support we have received so far.”

Additionally, the WTA’s newly released travel app, VisitWA, is proving popular as real-time tool for travelers, highlighting I-5 information, location maps, scenic detours such as Deception Pass and Whidbey Island and providing visitor information anytime, anywhere in the state.  Using GPS functions, the app locates the visitor/user, and then displays nearby local information.  The WTA app also features free and affordable travel diversions along the way.

The WTA current has a request before the state legislature for short-term funding to underwrite the basics of a marketing program in 2014 and 2015 which would include the state’s consumer travel web site, postage for mailing the Washington State Visitors’ Guide, operation of a travel call center, research and international marketing. Governor Inslee’s Working Washington Agenda references the importance of re-engaging tourism – the state’s fourth largest export industry according to Gross Domestic Product – following the closure of the state tourism office nearly two years ago.

The Skagit bridge collapse underscored the state and national need for better investment in modern transportation infrastructure to capitalize on economic growth, more jobs, new tax revenue and a more positive balance of trade.  A critical transportation package is currently being discussed in the state legislature’s special session in Olympia and at the national level, the U.S. Transportation Association continues its ongoing lobby to modernize the air traffic control system, increase capacity and improve access at the nation’s airports, and boost funding for national parks.

 
Travel Resources and Advisories
Washington Tourism Alliance: www.experiencewa.com
For community web sites, the mobile travel app and other travel resources
 
Tourism advocacy and press releases from impacted communities:
www.whytourismmatters.com
 
Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce: www.visitskagitcounty.com
Updated information from various tourism and other businesses throughout Skagit County
 
Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT): wsdot.wa.gov/construction/pugetsound/today.htm
For official route information and status updates
 
Amtrak: www.AmtrakCascades.com
Starting today, Amtrak Cascades will add a third daily round trip train between Seattle and Bellingham. This is a temporary addition to service to facilitate travelers.
 
 
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. www.watourismalliance.com.
 
Tourism is Washington State’s fourth largest industry. The state saw some 36.4 million total overnight person trips in 2012, and those visitors spent $16.9 billion and stimulated local and state tax receipts of more than $1 billion – the equivalent of $390 for every resident household in Washington State. Travel and tourism supported more than 153,300 jobs and earnings (payroll) of $4.7 billion.

WTA Newsletter – May 2013

LouiseExecutive Director Update

Louise Stanton-Masten

 May marks a very important month for tourism, as we all celebrated National Travel and Tourism Week May 4-12. The Washington Tourism Alliance [WTA] continues to advocate, promote, develop and sustain the economic well-being of the Washington tourism industry. And we want to make sure we effectively communicate the tourism news that matters the most to you!

Please welcome Bridget Baeth as the new editor of the WTA e-newsletter. Bridget currently serves as the Director of Marketing + Communications at the Tacoma Regional Convention + Visitor Bureau.

With Bridget’s help, we are taking the WTA e-newsletter to the next level. What does “next level” mean? It means enriching the content to provide a well-rounded account of tourism across the state to include not just advocacy information but also member news, destination highlights and more! However, before we make major changes we’d like to solicit your feedback-as this is YOUR e-newsletter! Please take a few minutes to share with us what you would like to see in your WTA e-newsletter.

This is your newsletter.  Please tell us how we can make it better and enter to win a free registration for next year’s WTA Summit! 

WTA e-newsletter survey

 

Legislative Session Update

Louise Stanton-Masten

This week marks the second week of the State legislative special session. The focus is on budget negotiation of the differences between the House and Senate passed versions of the budget. Representatives of the House, Senate and Governor’s office are meeting to negotiate a final budget.

The 30 day special session may extend until June 11. However, the next State revenue forecast is due to be released June 18 and there is some speculation that legislators will wait for the new revenue forecast before reaching an agreement; there is some thought that the forecast will be favorable and thus allow for a final budget without any new taxes.

Our WTA bridge funding request is still included in both the House and Senate budgets. As we reported to you in the past, the two-year biannual budget includes $1 million in the House budget, but only $200,000 in the Senate budget to support our work. WTA supports the House budget. We continue to work with legislators from throughout the state to ask for support for our funding request at the House budget level of $1 million.

As the special session continues, look for legislative alerts from WTA with our call to action in support of our bridge-funding request.

 

DMOs Celebrate National Travel & Tourism Week

David Blandford, WTA Board Member and Communications Committee Chair

National Travel & Tourism Week, May 4-11, was promoted and celebrated across Washington State.

Nine top UK tour operators and travel agents visited Seattle and the state to plan future tour itineraries during National Travel & Tourism Week. Our area was selected by Brand USA, the newly created national tourism marketing entity, as one of seven simultaneous “MegaFam” trips around the US. The trip was hosted by the Port of Seattle in conjunction with Visit Seattle, Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau and hotels and attractions around the region.

The Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau also recognized National Tourism week by promoting National Wine Tourism Day on May 11 and creating a member and industry blog post looking at Tourism from a different point of view: “We Help Create Memories.”

Seattle Southside Visitor Services held its Annual Tourism Network meeting on May 1 where it presented the 2013 Seattle Southside Tourism Ambassador award to its Seattle Southside Tourism Promotion Area Steering Committee members.

The San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau distributed a press release on May 2 on the importance of tourism to the island’s economy, employment and tax base.

The Tacoma Regional Convention + Visitor Bureau launched a training program for frontline customer service professionals in Pierce County on May 10. More than 30 participants ranging in hotel concierge to tour guides from Tacoma, Fife, Gig Harbor, Puyallup and Mount Rainier experienced the Tacoma region through the eyes of a visitor.

Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism held its annual meeting and member luncheon on May 22 but included National Travel & Tourism Week as part of its theme with 200 representatives from local businesses and a presentation by Mark Hoffmann, Chairman and CEO of the National Tour Association.

Visit Seattle produced a six-page special section themed to tourism in the Puget Sound Business Journal’s May 3 issue, hosted an industry open house with some 700 guests, headlined Mayor McGinn’s City Business Casual event which was themed to tourism and positioned tourism stories in local media.

 
Member News 
Snohomish County Tourism Bureau Launches New Destination Brand   

On May 2, the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau officially launched its new destination brand and tourism website designed to create more awareness of the area and increase the number of visitors.

“Open Up” is the key branding tagline, which is paired with the many activities and attractions Snohomish County has to offer.

Snohomish

 

The Snohomish County Tourism Bureau partnered with Nashville-based North Star Destination Strategies, which has developed destination brands for more than 150 communities nationwide. North Star created a comprehensive branding program designed to effectively heighten awareness of the region.

In addition to a new brand effort, the primary communication tool to potential visitors is the newly-developed website, www.snohomish.org. Consistent with the graphic design elements created in the branding process, the new website will enable visitors to learn about Snohomish County through unique content and tools that sort through the area’s attractions and events based on their specific interests or by a serendipitous exploration of the site. The website features a state-of-the-art responsive design to accommodate all mobile platforms in addition to traditional desktop computers.

 

Member News – Seattle Southside Announces Group of Hoteliers  
as 2013 Tourism Ambassadors

Seattle Southside Visitor Services, the official tourism department for the cities of Tukwila, SeaTac, Kent and Des Moines, presented the 2013 Seattle Southside Tourism Ambassador award to the Seattle Southside Tourism Promotion Area Steering Committee (made up of seven hoteliers).

Southside

For the past several years Seattle Southside has honored individuals who do outstanding work for the Southside tourism industry. These Tourism Ambassadors go above and beyond the call of duty to support the tourism industry. This year was slightly different. Seattle Southside hoteliers have been working on creating a Tourism Promotion Area for quite some time.

“This group really believes in the value of tourism and the Seattle Southside program,” said Katherine Kertzman, Executive Director of Seattle Southside Visitor Services. “They are such strong believers, they are willing to assess themselves in order to devote more funds to tourism promotion.” For more information visit www.seattlesouthside.com.

 
Washington Tourism Alliance Welcomes April New and Renewing Members 
 New members:  Chihuly Garden and Glass, Courtyard Seattle Federal Way, Courtyard Seattle Downtown/Pioneer Square, Courtyard Seattle Bellevue/Downtown, Courtyard Seattle Kirkland, Courtyard Seattle Southcenter, Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce, Northwest Travel Magazine, Residence Inn Seattle East/Redmond, Seattle Center, Shuttle Express
 
Renewing members: Baymont Inn & Suites, Canlis, City of Kirkland, Coast Hotels, Green Rubino, Hilton Bellevue, Hilton Vancouver Washington, Hotel Bellevue, Hotel Murano, Hyatt Regency Bellevue, Ivar’s, Meeting Professionals International WA Chapter, Mt. Rainier Visitor Association, Olympic Peninsula Gateway Visitor Center, Olympic Property Group, San Juan Islands Visitor Bureau, Seattle Bed and Breakfast Association, Sheraton Seattle Hotel, Silverdale Chamber of Commerce, Skamania County Chamber of Commerce, Snohomish County Tourism Bureau, Town of Coupeville, Travelodge Seattle Center, Vancouver USA Regional Tourism Office, Visit Bellevue WA, Visit Seattle

WTA Newsletter – April 2013

LouiseExecutive Director Update
Louise Stanton-Masten

Working on behalf of our members and industry stakeholders, the Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) has been active in the past several months, focused on our mission to advocate, promote, develop and sustain the economic well-being of the Washington tourism industry. Here is a recap, with links to full articles and more detailed information.
March Tourism Summit

Our third statewide Tourism Summit was held in Olympia on March 13th, drawing more than 200 tourism professionals from around the state to learn about the state of our industry, our most recent statewide visitor impact numbers and the WTA’s legislative agenda for short and long-term tourism funding. Governor Jay Inslee gave an inspiring welcome address and spoke about the importance of the tourism industry on jobs and the economy in Washington State. He indicated his commitment to working with the WTA “to create a vigorous, robust, comprehensive and fairly financed tourism effort in the State of Washington.” The morning Summit was followed by an afternoon of legislative advocacy, with our WTA delegation at the Capitol for meetings with their representatives and senators to discuss the importance the tourism industry in Washington State and the positive impact that it has on our economy.

Click here to learn more and for a link to an electronic version of the presentation that we made at the Summit.
Legislative Advocacy

Since the State legislative session began, the WTA’s focus has been two-fold. First, we continue our efforts to acquire State support for bridge-funding which will allow us to fund the basics of a statewide tourism program for the next two years. At the same time we are also working with our members to establish a long-term, industry- led funding model for the future which we can propose to the legislature next year, so that we can market Washington state in a competitive manner. Currently Washington is the only state in the nation without state support for tourism marketing; our goal is to address this issue within the next two years by establishing stable long-term funding to support our marketing efforts.

The WTA has been actively working in Olympia, meeting with legislators and their staff to communicate our message and advocate for tourism funding this session. Additionally WTA representatives made presentations to both the Senate Trade & Economic Development Committee and House Appropriations Committee, where we presented our plans and requested support for our bridge-funding request.

Many WTA members responded to our legislative alerts which asked you to communicate with your legislators about the need for bridge-funding in this year’s State budget. Thank You! We were pleased that the House budget included $1,000,000 for efforts to support tourism. This is much better than the $200,000 appropriated by the Senate. Now the House, Senate and Governor’s office will negotiate a final budget. The last day of the regularly scheduled legislative session is April 28. If no budget is agreed to by then the Governor will call a special session. We will continue to work with our legislators in support of the House budget position on funding tourism at the $1,000,000 level. We need the continued support of our WTA members and partners to continue the call for funding. View our suggested message. Since it appears likely that the legislature will, in fact, go into a special session, look for continued legislative alerts from the WTA with our call to action in support of our bridge-funding request.

WTA in the NEWS

On April 5th King 5 did a story about the WTA efforts to address statewide tourism marketing for Washington. Our message about the need for funding and our competition with neighboring states which have tourism marketing budgets significantly higher than ours was covered in an interview with WTA Board Chairman Kevin Clark and WTA Executive Director Louise Stanton-Masten. Click here for a link to the story and video of the King 5 news feature.
WTA Products to Serve Washington State Tourism

The WTA is proud of three very successful products that we offer to serve our members and the tourism industry. In the past few months we released the 2013 Official Washington State Visitors Guide, launched our newly updated website, www.experiencewa.com, and introduced our mobile app, VisitWA. In this section, we highlight each of these WTA tourism offerings.

2013 Edition of the Official WASHINGTON STATE VISITORS’ GUIDE RELEASED in March

The 2013 Washington State Visitors’ Guide was released in March and being is being widely distributed. The guide is produced through a strategic partnership with the WTA, the Washington Lodging Association (WLA) and SagaCity Media Inc. The Guide features regional maps, insider travel trips, itinerary suggestions and contact information for an array of standout local businesses and attractions. This year’s guide features three unique covers to underscore the beauty and breadth of Washington State visitor experiences.

The 2013 edition marks the 14th annual publication of the guide. This year, with increased demand, circulation has been increased to 375,000 copies, with readership of nearly one million. The Guide will be featured at visitor centers in Washington, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, and Vancouver, B.C., and will also be available at newsstands and checkout counters at Barnes & Noble, QFC and Whole Foods. Some 65,000 copies have been direct mailed to Seattle Met and Portland Monthly magazine subscribers.

Prospective travelers can read the Guide and order copies online at www.experiencewa.com and www.StayinWashington.com, the WLA’s web site. Travelers can also access versions of the guide that are optimized for iPads, android tablets and smart phones.

ExperienceWA Website

The new and improved travel consumer website, www.ExperienceWA.com launched just in time for the new year. The site features sections that include Things to See and Do, Events, Regions and Cities, Guides and Maps, and Stay in Washington, which is a link to the Washington Lodging Association website of accommodations throughout the state. ExperienceWA.com has blossomed for spring into a fully responsive website, which means viewing is optimized on any device – desktop, tablet and mobile – with flexible layout, sizing and feature detection. With the move to responsive design we expect the mobile & tablet performance and bounce rate to significantly improve. Coming up for the website in the near future are further enhancements which will include the use of Get Smart Content, which allows ExperienceWA to gather information about the user such as geography, search keyword and referring website, and instantly deliver relevant content based on that information. Additional website enhancements will also be on-going and implemented later this spring.

Mobile App – VisitWA

The WTA, in partnership with Yodio Tours, launched VisitWA, a mobile app targeting the growing number of visitors carrying smart phones on their travels. The mobile app provides information to visitors using the phone’s Global Positioning System (GPS) to deliver nearby sights, attractions and businesses on easy to use digital maps in every community across our state. The app was designed to offer tourism promoters the opportunity to be “local experts” and to share their recommendations about places to visit, creating local memorable sightseeing experiences.

The mobile app contains sections that feature things to see and do throughout the state that are both free and paid attractions, audio tours, and links to places to stay and dine. The current focus in development of the mobile app is to gather content for the “Free Things to See and Do” section. To share a sight or attraction on the app – the “must see and do” recommendations to our visitors – tourism promoters can submit a recommendation on the site, www.VisitWA.biz. Further development of the mobile app will continue into the summer as additional content and features are added.

Washington Tourism Alliance Welcomes New Directors

The Washington Tourism Alliance is pleased to announce the addition of two new members to the WTA Board of Directors. Leslie Johnson and Drew Schmidt were welcomed to the Board in March, 2013. We congratulate them and thank them for their commitment to the organization.

Leslie Johnson (Puyallup Tribe) is the Director of the Squaxin Island Tribe Tourism Department, with responsibility for promoting Tribal Tourism for the Squaxin Island Tribe as well as for NorthWest Tribal Tourism and the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway.

Leslie Johnson
Active in her community and with the Squaxin Island Tribe Tourism Department, Leslie participates in several conferences and trade shows each year, partners with a wide variety of tourism businesses and sponsors tourism related events. Leslie recently served as a member of the Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater Visitor & Convention Bureau. In addition to local and regional work, Leslie also serves on the National Scenic Byway Foundation Board of Directors. Thanks to Leslie’s support, the Squaxin Island Tribe Tourism Department has been a WTA member since the organization’s founding in 2011 and a sponsor of our annual tourism summit for the past two years.
Drew Schmidt is the Owner and Operator of Pacific Cruises Northwest and San Juan Cruises in Bellingham, a company that has been offering cruises since 1987.

 

 

Drew Schmidt

Current cruises include whale watching adventure cruises with a salmon lunch and shore stop in Friday Harbor, Chuckanut Bay cracked crab dinner cruises, beer and wine tasting cruises featuring Washington craft breweries and wineries, and San Juan Island group tours. Drew is a member of the Bellingham Tourism Commission, the Whatcom County Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, and is Treasurer of the Bellingham / Whatcom Tourism Bureau and Pacific Whale Watching Association.

Welcome Leslie and Drew to the WTA Board!

 

Washington Tourism Alliance Welcomes New Members

New members January – March include:

Adventura Aerial Adventure Park, Bank of America, Campbell’s Resort, City of Kenmore, City of Spokane Valley, Elwha Dam RV Park, Fran’s Chocolates, Hilton Garden Inn Yakima, Hyatt House Redmond, The Lucky Dog Casino, Marriott Hotels Regional Council, Moss Adams, The Outlet Collection, Pacific Place, Pacific Science Center, Quinault Beach Resort & Casino, River Park Square, San Juan Cruises, Seattle Aquarium, Seattle Marriott Waterfront, Skokomish Park at Lake Cushman, Tom Douglas Restaurants, University of Washington, The Waterfront at Potlatch

Renewing members January – March include:

7 Cedars Casino & Resort Properties, Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism, Best Western Plus CottonTree Inn, Cascade Loop Scenic Highway, Certified Folder Display Service, Inc, Chateau Ste. Michelle, City of Edmonds, Crowne Plaza Hotel, Heathman Lodge, Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Ilwaco Merchants Association, Jefferson County Tourism Coordinating Council, Macy’s, The Map Company, Port of Seattle, Pullman Chamber of Commerce, Residence Inn – Seattle Downtown/Lake Union, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Southside DMO, Ski Washington, Space Needle, Visit Spokane, The Inn at Gig Harbor, The Westin Bellevue, Trac Center, Tri-Cities CVB, Washington Bed and Breakfast Guild, Washington Indian Gaming Association, WSDMO

Member News

Monique Trudnowski of Adriatic Grill wins National Faces of Diversity American Dream Award
Monique T

Monique Trudnowski, owner of Tacoma’s Adriatic Grill Italian Cuisine & Wine Bar, won the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) Faces of Diversity American Dream Award. Trudnowski received her honor April 17th at the NRA’s Public Affairs Conference in Washington D.C.

The NRA honors a restaurant operator each year with the Faces of Diversity American Dream Award, which recognizes diverse members of the industry who have, through hard work and perseverance, achieved the American Dream.

She has taken an active role in the state’s newly formed Washington Tourism Alliance and has been integral to the Washington Restaurant Association’s political advocacy efforts. See the full story on the Washington Restaurant Association’s page.

 

Tuesday April 16th – WTA Call to Crucial Legislative Action: Please Voice Your Support Today!

OlympiaThanks to your communication and hard work we are pleased to announce that the House included $1,000,000 in its budget, released last week, for efforts to support tourism.  This is much better than the $200,000 appropriated by the Senate.  The letter of appreciation that the WTA sent last week to Representative Hunter and members of the House Appropriations Committee is on the WTA website, http://watourismalliance.com.

Now the House, Senate and Governor’s office will negotiate a final budget. At this time we need you to contact your legislators and encourage them to support the House budget position on funding tourism at the $1,000,000 level.  Our suggested message is below. Please feel free to tailor the message to your local community and tourism efforts, as well.

The last day of the regularly scheduled legislative session is April 28. If no budget is agreed to by then the Governor will have to call a special session.

Please contact your legislators TODAY! Here is a letter YOU can use:

Dear  [Insert Senator or Representative Name Here],

I am writing to ask that you please support the House position on funding for tourism in the operating budget. The $1,000,000 appropriated will provide us with the basics of a statewide tourism program for the next two years as we work to establish long-term, industry-led funding at a level that will allow us to market Washington State in a competitive manor.

As the only state in the nation currently without state support for tourism marketing, we are currently competing with other states that are spending tens of millions of dollars to attract visitors and the associated spending that comes with them.

Tourism is an essential industry in our state. It is Washington’s 4th largest export industry by Gross Domestic Product, with $16.9 billion in total direct visitor spending in 2012. More than $1,000,000,000 in local and state tax revenues are contributed by visitors to our state, equivalent to almost $400 for every household in the state. For many communities and regions of this state, tourism represents a significant percentage of their local economy. Without a statewide marketing program and platform upon which those communities and regions can promote their attractions they will continue to lag in the economic recovery. The tourism Industry supported 153,500 jobs and created $4.7 billion in payroll earnings in 2012.

Thank you for your support of tourism in Washington State.

Sincerely,

Your name

Your address

Your business name and address

To find and contact your legislators:

  • To identify your legislators visit www.leg.wa.gov and  select ‘find my district’ tab
  • Call the legislative hotline at 800-562-6000

 

 

WTA Urgent Call to Legislative Action – Please help by sending this message to your Representative today!

The House of Representative’s budget will be released early this week.  WTA needs your help to let them know the importance of our FULLY FUNDED request of $1.275M in bridge funding to underwrite the basics of a marketing program in 2014 and 2015 which would include our website, postage for mailing the

Washington State Visitors’ Guide, operation of a call center, research, and international marketing.  The Senate budget released last week only allocates $200,000 for tourism, so it is essential that we ask the House to fully fund our request.

We’ve provided a letter below that you can customize in contacting your legislator, or you can call the legislative hotline and leave a message for your representative. If your representative is a Democrat please ask them to let Rep. Ross Hunter and Rep. Jeff Morris know they support the request, and if your representative is a Republican, ask them to talk to Rep. Gary Alexander to express your support.

Your help is essential in expressing your strong support for this one-time public investment in tourism promotion.

 

Dear Representative _____________:

In 2011, as a result of legislative action, the state tourism office closed.  We are the only state without a statewide tourism marketing program, yet tourism is the fourth largest industry in this state.  In 2012, the tourism industry employed over 153,300 people, created $4.7 billion in earnings and generated $16.9 billion in direct visitor spending.  Tourism put over $1 billion in state and local tax coffers.

To fill the void, the Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) was formed.  This private industry organization is providing a minimal marketing effort to maintain a presence and keep our state on the radar screen of tourists.

The WTA is requesting a one-time appropriation of $1.275M for the 2013-15 biennium. The purpose of this request is to provide for the basics of a statewide tourism marketing program until we get a mechanism in place to finance such a program from industry assessments. This appropriation request would allow the WTA to continue, and in some instance put in place, the elements of a statewide marketing program. Funding will go to website development, postage for fulfillment pieces, operation of a call center, research, and international marketing – all of these items are essential to promoting tourism in Washington State.

We ask that you include these requests in your version of the 2013-15 biennial budget.  Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

To find and contact your legislators:

  • To identify your legislators visit www.leg.wa.gov and  select ‘find my district’ tab
  • Call the legislative hotline at 800-562-6000

Washington Tourism Alliance fights for funding

olympiaby Heather Graf / KING 5 News

Turn your back on tourism and the entire state will suffer.  That’s the message from the Washington Tourism Alliance, who says its funding and its future are now on the chopping block in Olympia.

It was two years ago when budget cuts closed the state tourism office for good.  The move made Washington the first state in the country with no state money to promote itself to visitors.

To help fill the void, stakeholders in the tourism industry came together to form the Washington Tourism Alliance.

The WTA  is now in charge of running the state tourism website, printing 375,000 copies of the annual visitors guide, and trying to compete with neighboring states.

Executive Direct Louise Stanton-Masten admits, it hasn’t been easy with such limited funding.

“Those of us that live here understand what this state has to offer, and we want to communicate that to potential tourists,” she said.

She said it’s difficult to compete with nearby states, like Montana — whose tourism market budget is drastically higher than Washington’s.  For instance, Montana can afford building-size billboards, now popping up all over Seattle, that invite visitors to check out that state.

The WTA’s plan is to find a longterm funding source.  In the short term, though, they’ve asked state legislators for about $1.2 million, to get them through the next two years.

Stanton-Masten says they were hopeful when that money was included in Governor Inslee’s proposed budget.

Then, on Wednesday, it was cut from the state senate’s proposed budget.

“The future is a little unknown because of that,” said Stanton-Masten.

Without that $1.2 million in funding, she says the state visitors guide, among other things, is at risk.

“Does it concern me? Yes,” said Kevin Clark, who owns Argosy Cruises in Seattle.

He also serves on the board for WTA, because he believes in what they do and says projects like the visitors guide make a difference to tourism-based businesses like his.

“Anything you can get into the hands of potential visitors, whether its the published tour guide, whether its going online downloading and reading that same content, is important,” he said.  “Most people choose to travel based on something they’ve seen or read or heard from a friend.”

Now, the WTA is asking its supporters to contact their legislators, and petition them to restore the WTA funding.  No final decisions have been made.

To put things in perspective, consider this:  state likes Oregon, Montana, Idaho, and California all have tourism budgets between $10 and $60 million.

Click here to watch the King 5 report.

Call to Legislative Action!

We need your help! The state Senate released its budget yesterday and did NOT include funding for the WTA or any tourism programs as our Bridge Funding request would have provided. Please contact your state legislators TODAY and ask they include funding in the budget for tourism.

Olympia

Include in your message:

  • After the Legislature closed the State Tourism Office, the Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) was formed. This private industry organization is providing essential marketing efforts to maintain a presence and keep our state on the radar screen of tourists
  • WTA is requesting a one-time appropriation of $1.275M for the 2013-15 biennium. The purpose of this request is to provide for the basics of a statewide tourism marketing program until we get a mechanism in place to finance such a program from industry assessments
  • This appropriation request would allow the WTA to continue, and in some instance put in place, the elements of a statewide marketing program
  • Funding will go to website development, postage for fulfillment pieces, operation of a call center, research, and international marketing – all of these items are essential to promoting tourism in Washington State

Tell your lawmakers that
Tourism Matters to Washington State!
Let them also know:

Tourists spend money

  • Total direct visitor spending was estimated to be $16.9 billion in 2012
  • International tourists spent $1.9 billion in Washington State in 2012, representing 13 percent of all tourism spending in the state

Tourists pay taxes

  • More than $1 billion in local/state tax revenue in 2012!

Tourists support jobs

  • 153,300 jobs and $4.7 billion in earnings in Washington State!

Feel free to expand on these points and explain why funding for tourism matters to you and your community!

* Source: Washington State Travel Impacts, 2012, Washington Tourism Alliance/Dean Runyan Associates.

To find and contact your legislators:
To identify your legislators visit www.leg.wa.gov and select ‘find my district’ tab
Call the legislative hotline at 800-562-6000
Find your legislator’s email address here.

3rd Annual Washington Tourism Alliance Summit and Day in Olympia Recap

The Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) held its third, statewide Tourism Summit on March 12, 2013 in Olympia. More than 200 tourism professionals from around the state gathered at the Summit to learn about the state of our industry, our most recent statewide visitor impact numbers and the WTA’s legislative agenda for short and long-term tourism funding.

An electronic version of the WTA 2013 Summit Power Point Presentation is available by clicking on this link: 2013 WTA Tourism Summit Presentation

Governor Inslee gave an inspiring welcome address and spoke about the importance of the tourism industry on jobs and the economy in Washington State. In his speech, he stated that “we have the best possible tourism magnet in the world.” He indicated his commitment to working with the WTA “to create a vigorous, robust, comprehensive and fairly financed tourism effort in the State of Washington.”

At the Summit the WTA released Washington State travel impact figures which indicate that tourism in Washington State was slightly improved in 2012 over 2011 figures. Thanks to a national economic recovery, U.S. tourism grew at 5.2 percent; however, visitation to Washington State lagged behind the U.S. with just 2.1 percent growth. The state saw some 36.4 million total overnight person trips in 2012, and those visitors spent $16.9 billion, up 4.4 percent over 2011. As with the increase in visitor spending, total local and state tax receipts generated by travel spending increased 4.9 percent to just over $1 billion – the equivalent of $390 for every resident household in Washington State. Travel and tourism supported more than 153,300 jobs in 2012, up 2.7 percent, and generated earnings (payroll) of $4.7 billion.

The morning Tourism Summit was followed by an afternoon of legislative advocacy. Our WTA delegation moved to the Capitol for meetings with their representatives and senators. In these meetings, we discussed with them the importance the tourism industry in Washington State and the positive impact that it has on our economy. We cited our competition from other states, which are spending from $7 million to $61 million in tourism marketing. Each legislator was asked to support our bridge funding request of $1.775 million, which will provide for the basics of a statewide tourism marketing program until we have our long-term funding program in place.
Tourism Matters
The day concluded with an industry reception at the Governor’s Mansion.
Thanks to the following Signature and Event sponsors for their support of the 3rd Annual Washington Tourism Summit and Day in Olympia: Port of Seattle; The Boeing Company; Spokane Public Facilities District; Washington State Convention Center; R.C. Hedreen Co.; Visit Seattle; Chihuly Garden and Glass; Pepsi; Snohomish County Airport Paine Field; Snohomish County; Squaxin Island Tribe Tourism Department; Tulalip Resort and Casino; Washington State Wine Commission.