Executive Director Update – August 2012

Have you ever been involved in a project, task, or challenge that at times seemed insurmountable? Have you had days when you’ve asked yourself, “Did I accomplish anything today?”   And then, just when you are about to hit the wall, you have a breakthrough. If so, you know the feeling of being re-energized and positive and ready to take on the world all over again. To be honest, I have had those days, but I’ve seen and felt that breakthrough recently, and it feels great!

So what was my breakthrough? It was receiving recognition, and noticing awareness, of the WTA. It is such a great feeling when a potential investor tells us they know all about the WTA, can’t believe this has happened in our state, and appreciate the work we have done. And to hear legislators, who are aware of the current state, tell us statistics about the impact of the loss of tourism to our economic development. Better yet, to have out-of-state media calling us to say “We heard about what the WTA is doing in Washington, and we are impressed. Can you tell us more?” While funding is still a concern, I truly believe we have reached a milestone. Broad-based advocacy is critical to our success, and we are seeing our efforts make a difference in our state.

While I personally hate sports analogies, I feel compelled to share what I am thinking: We are like a Super Bowl competitor….we have a hell of a team, we are focused, we have a plan, and we are ready to execute.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful and sunny rest of the month. See you in September! (Isn’t there a song about that?)

-Suzanne Fletcher
Executive Director

MEMBER NEWS

I don’t need to tell anyone how important the upcoming state elections are to the future of tourism. Because of that, the WTA Board invited both candidates to present their perspectives on the current state of tourism in Washington. This month the Board had the opportunity to hear Democratic candidate, Jay Inslee, present and address questions posed by the Board. In September, Rob McKenna, the Republican candidate, will be presenting. I will include those discussions in next month’s newsletter so you can see where the candidates stand and how they plan to support the WTA moving forward.

Now is the time to reserve your space in the Official 2013 Washington State Visitors’ Guide and receive special WTA member pricing – just one more benefit of your WTA membership.

 Thanks to our combined efforts of the three-way partnership with the Washington Lodging Association and SagaCity Media, circulation for the Visitors’ Guide has grown to 375,000 and readership to nearly one million prospective travelers. Our aggressive distribution plan continues to get copies into the hands of visitors at over 2,200 visitor locations in nine states and in British Columbia and at Barnes & Noble, QFC, Whole Foods and other quality stores in Washington and Oregon. The 2013 Visitors’ Guide will also reach 65,000 subscribers of Seattle Met and Portland Monthly magazines when it is mailed along with their April issues.

And we continue to expand our program with major Washington companies, using the Official Washington State Visitors’ Guide as a recruitment tool for new hires. As WTA’s official tourism publication, the Visitors’ Guide is prominently featured on experiencewa.com where travelers can view it online or order their own copy. Readers can also download the Guide to their iPad or other tablet devices and smartphones.

Now is the time to reserve your space, invest in Washington tourism, and bring visitors to your door. Contact Jeff Adams at SagaCity Media for more information and to reserve your space. (jadams@sagacitymedia.com or call 206-454-3007)

Recently I was made aware of an impressive effort by our friends out in the San Juan Islands that I wanted to share.  The San Juan Islands are an integral part of tourism to this state, and a real gem to share. (They were recognized as the #2 NY Times world list and Travel & Leisure’s “Top 10 Islands-Continental US & Canada) They are taking on a monumental task and are asking for support.

The San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau invites all tourism partners to help support the designation of 955 acres of unspoiled, government-owned land in the San Juan Islands as a National Monument. The Monument would preserve scenic views, flora and fauna, history, culture and beloved recreation areas. These lands include iconic lighthouses, tiny bays, rocky promontories and Patos Island. Their Visitors Bureau is committed to local input into the management of these lands, particularly in the area of visitor education. The Islands belong to everyone and are a magnetic for tourists to Washington State. To help us preserve these unspoiled jewels go to San Juan Islands National Conservation Area for more information and for tips on letter writing. You may also directly link to email the President from there website.

COMMITTEE REPORTS

Marketing Committee 

The marketing committee has been tracking the activity of the Web site committee closely and is very excited about the progress being made toward a new site.

They are monitoring the success we have had with our new co-op ad campaign and the conversion rate of the display ads placed. The committee is eager to see another surge in clicks to the co-op application page. One thing to note in regard to the clicks is that this figure only represents clicks expressly driven from the advertisements. The organic traffic of the Facebook page and the sharing inherent to social media has and will continue to drive additional traffic to the co-op application.

Chris Murphy and George Sharp (co-chairs) extended the opportunity for one of the committee members to become co-chair of the social media sub-committee. Jennifer Johnson with the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad graciously volunteered. If you are interested in contributing to the WTA’s social media efforts, please email Chris (ChrisM@Seabrookwa.com) or Jennifer (sales@mrsr.org).

Finally, the committee chairs reviewed the next steps for the strategic marketing plan. After a meeting last month with Green Rubino, the PR firm hired previously by the state, the committee chairs explained the current state of the Experience WA brand and expressed that over the next few weeks the chairs will meet with Green Rubino again to craft a presentation for the marketing committee. The goal of the presentation is to review the steps taken in developing the Experience WA & Washington the State logos and to set forth the previously recommended next steps for the brand strategy created by Green Rubino for the Washington State Tourism Office. Looking forward, the marketing committee’s intent is to gather as much information as possible and create a presentation for the WTA board with a recommendation for the further development of the Experience WA brand, and an explanation on how the marketing committee recommends the more developed brand will play a large role in the strategic marketing strategy.

Website Task Force  

The Website Task Force received 8 proposals for a new website and interviewed 4 potential website partners.  We have now identified a website partner, and are currently discussing details of a business partnership.  We see some exciting changes coming to ExperienceWa.com, so stay tuned for an update and timeline.

PR Committee

I had the privilege of being interviewed by Jake Wittenberg, a reporter with King 5 TV, on WTA’s success and challenges one year after the state tourism office closed. The story was run on their morning show on August 8th.

We also had a great story in the Seattle Business Magazine in August called “Off the Map”, written by Isolde Raftery, after she attended the April Summit.   In addition, a tourism story featuring WTA is underway in the Puget Sound Business Journal’s special hospitality section and will be issued in late August. The story will feature WTA success stories, long-term funding challenges and opportunities, and more.

WTA social media channels:

The committee is staffing both Facebook and Twitter. Our dedicated members take shifts in posting/tweeting. With the transition complete, emphasis is now on building fans/followers, which in turn will help WTA establish industry, member, business and political support.

As far as our video/photo library, the committee continues to work in tandem with other WTA committees to make the library more accessible for client and industry use. Progress continues on development of a much-needed storage system that is separate from experiencewa.com. Solutions may include an FTP site, cloud option or others.

Long Term Funding and Advocacy Committee

It’s been a very busy month for the Long Term Funding/Advocacy Committee (LTFA). With the help of Becky Bogard and Kathryn Hedrick, six regional meetings have already been held through out the state to discuss our ideas and concepts for the funding model moving forward. The feedback and support has been very positive and has prepared us for our next steps. Printed pieces related to advocacy and explaining funding were distributed to participants at these regional meetings

Since those meetings, the LTF+A Committee has continued to meet and discuss results from regional meetings, advocacy process, and new concepts for a true funding model.

We have also discussed issues related to bridge funding, governmental involvement, and practical expectations of 2013 legislation. Because of timing issues with enacting and implementing any legislation, we believe we will need some bridge funding to keep some projects alive.  This might include funding for tourism research such as the Dean Runyan study as well as funds to get a new website up and running.

Membership Committee

Throughout the summer, the membership committee has been working hard to bring in more members and increase awareness of the WTA. The Level Up! campaign has been extended through the end of September, so bring in a new member to the WTA this summer and receive an upgrade to your membership! The committee has also assigned each WTA member a representative from the Board of Directors. Your board rep will be from your region or from your sector.  In the coming months, the membership committee will be contacting all current members to do a “checking in” and also informing you of your Board representative. If you have any questions, please contact our Business Development Manager, Mike Moe at mike@watourismalliance.com.

The committee is also discussing the possibility of creating a WTA discount program for members offering members discounts at other member’s establishments. We want to continue adding value to your membership. More to come on this!

Events Committee

In order to increase interest among potential bidders on Bidding For Good, the online auction’s structure will be changing. We are evaluating frequency, quantity of items, and types of items, always focusing on how we are showcasing our members and their regions.. The committee is now tracking activity and statistics through Google Analytics to get a better understanding of our buyer’s habits.

SAVE THE DATE !

The committee is actively working on a very cool event for Saturday evening, October 20th and we wanted to make sure you got it on the calendar. While we hate to sound coy, we are not quite ready to share all the details, but we can tempt you by telling you it will include a great venue, superb Washington wines, and phenomenal food! So did we catch your interest? The Events Committee will be announcing details very soon.

WELCOME NEW MEMBERS

We want to welcome our recent new members: Palace Hotel, Holiday Inn Express Bellingham, Chambers Bay Golf Course, Hotel 1000, Fairfield Inn and Suites Puyallup, Amtrak, Media West Advertising Sales, Harbor Inn Edmonds, Wolf Haven International, Port Districts of Mason County, Chrysalis Inn and Spa, Snoqualmie Tribe, Anacortes Chamber of Commerce, Sheraton Bellevue, Omni Risk Management, WA State Wine Commission, Lynnwood PFD Convention Center, Hotel Bellevue, and the Holiday Inns and Holiday Inns Express  of Yakima and Ellensburg. Thank you for joining the WTA, and for becoming a part in the future of Washington Tourism.

Executive Director Update – June 2012

It is a great time to be in tourism in Washington! Our high season is upon us, and it’s great to see more tourists on the sidewalks and more cameras around necks. The cruise ships are in port and passengers are visiting our members’ establishments.

I’ve always been tempted to interview them and ask, “Why did you choose Washington?” So this past weekend, that is exactly what I did. The answers were as diverse as their points of origination. Many respondents commented it was the draw of the beauty of our state, or the variety of outdoor and/or affordable activities. But the answer I got more than I would have liked…it’s on the way to Alaska! That just tells me we have much work to do! We need to get the word out that Washington is open for business and we are inviting everyone to come and stay for awhile….and see more of our state to truly understand the diversity and the grandeur of Washington.

-Suzanne Fletcher

Continue reading “Executive Director Update – June 2012”

Executive Director Update – May 2012

Last month I reported on our successful Summit that took place at the Seattle Hilton & Conference Center on April 5, 2012. With over 400 attendees, it was a great way to kick off year two. In my last newsletter I had mentioned we would be reporting back to you the survey results received, and commentary that was shared with us.

1. Overall Satisfaction with the Summit: 93% of responders were satisfied and/or extremely satisfied
2. View of the all-day format: 85% preferred the full day over a half day
3. Event was priced appropriately: 97% felt it was a good value

Below are partial responses from the open-ended survey questions:

Was anything missing from the event? What would you like to see next year?

• More networking opportunity
• Break outs in the afternoon
• More solicitation of information from the audience
• Panel discussions
• More discussions on marketing
• More information on how money will be spent
• Report on how other states are dealing with cut backs

What suggestions do you have for next year’s Summit?

• Liked the Committee updates
• Use the organizations that were there to market your program to spread the word to community service groups
• Understand the need to thank everyone and congratulate everyone but that seemed to be the only theme felt like a company annual sales meeting
• Get sponsorships/funding — where are the big companies…the non-tourism companies that reap the benefits, i.e. Microsoft and Amazon?
• Involve more of the smaller, outlying area groups. Work with your nonprofit members more…they know how to save and get money
• Keep communicating about what successes the organization is having and don’t forget about the possible contributions of ‘grassroots’ or individual members
• More handouts
• Create a brand assessment, brand strategy and a marketing plan with clear objectives, strategies and tactics
• Get the funding legislation ready soon, then call on us for lobbying calls and we’ll make it happen
• Official Washington State Visitor’s Guide

Committee Reports

Web Committee-The website is still a work in progress, and the team is currently evaluating next steps.
PR & Communications-Continuing to expand our reach on Facebook & Twitter. Get your friends to follow us! The PR Committee got four press releases out during the month, and we were very fortunate to have MSNBC, The Seattle Times, Crosscut and King 5 covering our Summit
Long Term Funding-We continue to meet with other organizations to learn from their efforts. Last week we had the opportunity to hear how Washington Filmworks was successful in passing their recent legislation. We have been identifying stakeholders and stakeholder organizations to determine our advocacy focus, and are assigning members to these stakeholders to advance our message.
Membership Committee-This committee is currently working on a project to streamline the current member database so it can be used more effectively in outreach. They are also assisting the Marketing Committee in designing a non-tourism membership kit that can be used in future solicitations by creating a more compelling value proposition.
Marketing Committee-Along with revamping the membership kit, the Marketing Committee is also focusing on future: co-op development and contests. They are also evaluating our media buy strategy and developing recommendations to the Board. Lastly, they are continuing to enhance the use of our social media.
Summit & Events –While the five “around the State” fundraising events are still in the early planning stages, venues and themes are being finalized. Don’t forget about our Bidding for Good auction site! The S&E committee will be launching a new package every month thru 2012.

Pow Wow Report
The Washington Tourism Alliance was well represented at Pow Wow 2012. A huge thank you to John Cooper, Yakima CVB, for being the coordinator and host for this year’s booth. John shared the booth with George Sharp, Olympia/Tumwater/Lacey CVB, Leslie Johnson, Squaxin Tribe, and Shauna Lunde-Stewart from the Tacoma Regional CVB. Their dance card was full, having 37 confirmed appointments and 12 walk ups. It was very important for the WTA to be present, and squelch the rumors that Washington was closed for business.

Official Guide
I’m pleased to report that the new Official Washington State Visitors’ Guide is a tremendous hit, flying off shelves all over the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Pick up a copy and you’ll know why the Visitors’ Guide is so popular. It offers 140 pages of first-class travel writing, stunning photography and invaluable resources. And thanks to our publishing partnership with Washington Lodging Association and SagaCity Media, Inc., the Washington State Visitors’ Guide will engage close to one million readers in 2012—more proof that WTA is leveraging opportunities to promote tourism throughout our beautiful state! Please contact Jeff Adams at SagaCity Media (jadams@sagacitymedia.com or 206-454-3007) for more information.

And now we are three!!!
I hope you all have an opportunity to say hello to Monica Hinckley who joined us as our permanent Administrator. Monica joined us in mid-May, and comes from the Seattle International Film Festival organization. It is great to now have a team of three representing you and the WTA.

As always, we love to hear from you. If you have comments or concerns, please feel free to call us or send an email to admin@watourismalliance.com.

Executive Director Update – 4.12.12

Washington Tourism Alliance Executive Director

Executive Director Update
April 12, 2012

Summit 2012

You remember my last newsletter stated “it’s all about the Summit”, and that was true! The second annual WTA Summit was held last week at the Seattle Hilton & Conference Center and was attended by over 400 people! It was a great day for the WTA!

Guest presenters included Roger Dow, USTA and Caroline Beteta from Brand USA, it was great to get the update on what is happening at the national level and how USTA is bringing awareness on the value of tourism to the United States.

Speaking on behalf of the WTA was George Sharp, Marketing Committee Chair; Andy Olsen, Long Term Funding/Advocacy Chair; and myself. The event came off without a hitch. We must recognize the terrific staff of the Seattle Hilton Airport Complex and thank Frank Welton, General Manager, for his overwhelming support. Also a special thanks to Brianna Mark, Joanie Pop, and Laura Brackenridge and Kara Moreno for registration and venue management. Find out what WTA has been doing and where we are going, by viewing the presentations. All three WTA presentations are now posted on the www.watourismalliance.com website for those that missed the event.

We were so fortunate to start the festivities with a magnificent (and sold out!) reception at The Museum of Flight the night prior. Besides being a breathtaking location, McCormick and Schmick’s pulled out all the stops for us with fabulous food. The entertainment was a blast from the past with flight attendants (stewardess then) in uniforms from the 40s and 50s. We were entertained by Sweet Swing and all this could not have been possible without the tremendous efforts of Meagan McGuire from the museum, who managed the entire event including the sponsorship of our transportation, Shuttle Express, and the generous sponsorship from Squaxin Island Tourism, Suquamish Clearwater Resort & Casino, Tulalip Resort Casino Spa and Northwest Tribal Tourism. This event will be tough to beat, but we are already working on an idea!

A survey for attendees will be going out soon, and I will report back the findings.

Official Visitors’ Guide

Have you had the opportunity to see the new Guide? They are amazing! Yes, I said they because while there is only one guide, there are three covers!! WLA, WTA and SagaCity Publishing have created a Visitors Guide that is second to none. The three organizations participated on an Editorial Board and collaborated on the content and design of the publication. With regional maps, insider tips and contact information for an array of standout local businesses and attractions, the 2012 edition will help the first-time traveler and the seasoned Washington visitor make the transition from inspiration to itinerary. This guide will be hitting 65,000 homes in the Portland and Seattle area for all subscribers of Portland monthly and Seattle Met Magazine. In the next few days. It will also be featured at visitor centers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Washington and Vancouver, BC, and prominently displayed on newsstands and at checkout counters at Barnes & Noble, QFC and Whole Foods. And of course the Guide can also be ordered through the www.ExperienceWa.com website or can be viewed electronically from your computer, mobile device or iPad. Do take a look. I know you will be very impressed.

Committee Reports

Marketing

The big news here is our first co-op ad is being released soon targeting the Portland and Vancouver Canada marketplace.
Also the Marketing Committee has a call to action. Chris Murphy, our social media sub committee chair is requesting the following: While the social media sub-committee employs software to amalgamate recently published content, if you have an upcoming event or piece of news that you would like the WTA to consider for publishing, we would love for you to send us a press release along with any photography you would like to have featured. If you do not have a press release drafted, a web address at which more information can be found will be very helpful. Please email these materials to Chrism@seabrookwa.com using the subject “WTA Social Media.” Chris will ensure that the information provided is distributed to the appropriate team member within the social media sub-committee.

Membership

During the Summit we had a membership raffle which brought in 38 referrals and many new members. Thanks to the efforts of the membership committee and all the donated baskets, the WTA raised almost $1700!

Summit & Events

Besides pulling off an amazing Summit, this committee has also organized an incredible fundraising opportunity for the WTA. They (again, a special thank you to Meagan McGuire, Lenny Zilz and Silvia Reed) have created an on line auction site through www.Biddingforgood.com, and we will be offering member’s packages for auction through out the year. Please check out the current offering of our Bellingham/San Juan Escapes, and don’t forget to bid on it while you are in there. www.biddingforgood.com/wta

Long Term Funding/Advocacy

The LTF Committee will continue to refine the proposed draft of our long term funding model. Our goal is to have a final draft with stakeholder buy in around 3rd quarter of this year.

Web Committee

The Web Committee created a sub-committee to review the future direction of the ExperienceWa.com website. They met last week and are moving forward with a plan.

PR/Communications

Thanks to David Blandford and team for having great press coverage of the Summit and the media coverage afterwards. We also want to thank Marcus Carney from the Tacoma Regional CVB for assisting us in our Tweeting during the event. The coverage was amazing!

If you are interested in volunteering for any of these committees, submit this volunteer application and we will reach out to you.

As you consider your membership renewal, I want to be sure that you know how we are spending your investment dollars.
Our expenses average $31,000 a month. A third of those expenses are related to the maintenance of the www.experiencewa.com website, another third is devoted to the call center operation and various business expenses (such as legal fees, postage, office supplies, etc.) and a third pays two staff salaries and the part-time salary for administrative and bookkeeping help. As you know, we do not have an office nor do we pay any benefits. I hope you would agree-we are watching your dollars!

Suzanne Fletcher
Executive Director, WTA

www.watourismalliance.com
info@watourismalliance.com

Executive Director Update – 2.10.12

Washington Tourism Alliance Executive Director

Executive Director Update

February 10, 2012

I always want to start out by saying “it’s been a busy few weeks,” but they are all busy and productive weeks at the WTA! There is so much progression in committees, increased press, and public speaking opportunities. The list just goes on and on… But I would be remiss if I didn’t start out every newsletter with one comment… THE VOLUNTEERS… AMAZING DEDICATION AND AMAZING PEOPLE! We can’t thank you enough.

I need to begin by introducing the new face in town! We are very excited to announce that Brianna Mark is joining our team and will be a very familiar voice and face to the WTA. Brianna comes to us with years of DMO and meeting and events experience. She hasn’t had much down time since she started, but I do hope you take a minute and say hello and introduce yourself through email or in person, she can be contacted at bmark@watourismalliance.com . Continue reading “Executive Director Update – 2.10.12”

1.19.12 – Executive Director Update

I know everyone in this country is looking forward to what 2012 can bring. Let’s face it…2011 was a rough year for many, including Washington State tourism. But with every cloud, one is to look for the silver lining, and as we begin 2012….I think we have found it! The WTA has made amazing strides, accomplished so much, and has a bright future….all due to incredible volunteers! You know I love to write these newsletters every few weeks, because I have so much positive news, creative ideas, and a lot of blood, sweat and tears to share. 2012 will be a critical year to our success, but if you take a moment to reflect on what has been accomplished over the last five months, you have to be optimistic! Welcome 2012!!!

Committee Reports Continue reading “1.19.12 – Executive Director Update”

12.29.11 – Executive Director Update

Washington Tourism Alliance Executive Director

It is hard to believe we are winding down 2011 this week. What is more amazing is all that has been accomplished to keep our State in the tourism business. I am so proud of the accomplishments made by our dedicated volunteers! So many obstacles, so many mountains to climb! But amazingly, we are still traversing that mountain and bowling over our obstacles.

Committee Reports Continue reading “12.29.11 – Executive Director Update”

12.20.11 – Executive Director Update

Washington Tourism Alliance Executive Director

It is with mixed feelings that I announce the departure of Tammy Blount as President of the WTA. She will be leaving her position of President + CEO at the Tacoma Regional CVB to take a position with the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau. While this is an exciting opportunity for Tammy, we will miss her leadership and devotion to our organization. Continue reading “12.20.11 – Executive Director Update”

12.7.11 – Executive Director Update

Washington Tourism Alliance Executive Director

We are getting vey close to the end of the year, but things are not slowing down at the WTA. If anything, they are heating up! The Board Retreat expanded our “to do” list, and it has been great checking off some of the assignments. As always, our committees are putting in countless hours to meet their deadlines, and I am excited about being able to report on our considerable progress.

Continue reading “12.7.11 – Executive Director Update”

11.11.11 – Executive Director Update

Washington Tourism Alliance Executive Director

November 1, 2011

Things are moving along at the WTA. The last two weeks have included partner meetings, committee meetings and multiple speaking engagements. But the big news for the WTA this week was receiving approval from the state in regards to our request and proposal to take ownership of the Experience WA website as of January 1, 2012! The web committee worked long and hard learning the ins and outs of the website, and will continue during the transition activities. The committee has designed a regional team approach to manage the content going forward so that all information is fresh and of value to the user. More information will be forthcoming as the timeline and schedule of postings are determined. There are other changes taking place within the website committee and the business plan is available upon request to WTA members.

COMMITTEE UPDATES Continue reading “11.11.11 – Executive Director Update”