Register Today for the 2020 State Tourism Conference!

October 8th, 2020 8am-4pm 

Register now for the 2020 State Tourism Conference. This virtual event will bring together Washington State tourism industry members and feature a line-up of national, state, and local speakers and panelists in addition to industry breakout sessions. Program Highlights:

  • Welcome and State of the Industry
  • Travel & Tourism Industry and Forecast by Adam Sacks, the CEO of Tourism Economics
  • Panel discussion on the Future of Outdoor Based Tourism
  • Panel discussion on U.S.-Canada Cross-Border Tourism
  • Keynote Address by Roger Dow, The CEO and President of the US Travel Association
  • Panel discussion on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Implications and Opportunities for the Travel Industry
  • Panel discussion with Small Business Owners Who Have Successfully Adapted to Covid-19
  • Panel discussion on Planning for Industry Recovery with State Government and Industry Leaders
  • Opportunities to network with people in your sector and region

Click here to register! 

Cost: $25 for WTA members, $35 for non-members, and $8 for students. Click here for sponsorship opportunities. We look forward to reuniting as an industry in October!


The Washington Tourism Alliance invites you to save the date for the 2020 Washington State Tourism Conference, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., October 8, 2020.

This virtual conference represents the return of Washington’s state tourism conference, last held more than a decade ago.

The program will include:

  • State of the travel and tourism industry
  • The latest in travel and tourism research and recovery indicators
  • Panel discussions on the Future of Outdoor Tourism, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Adapting in an Age of Covid
  • Virtual lunch break to catch up with colleagues in your region
  • Virtual happy hour to network with colleagues in your sector

Registration, sponsorship opportunities, and program information is coming soon!

Walla Walla Named Wine Region of the Year by USA Today

August 21, 2020

WTA Media Contact:
Christina Pivarnik
(360) 531-0127

Walla Walla, Wash. – USA Today readers named Washington’s Walla Walla Valley as America’s Best Wine Region, announced today in the publication’s prestigious 2020 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards. This is the first first-place win for the Walla Walla Valley, though it has been selected as a finalist for the award three consecutive years.

 This this year’s finalists were narrowed from a field of 250 wine-growing regions to 20 finalists by a panel of wine industry experts before USA Today readers voted. Additionally, USA readers names Long Shadows Vintners as fourt-best tasting room for the second consecutive year.

The Walla Walla Valley, located in the state’s south east, is home to more than 120 wineries, a growing and nationally recognized culinary scene, a range of outdoor recreation and arts and entertainment attractions. The region, and the town of Walla Walla, are a four-hour drive from Seattle through some of Washington’s other noted wine regions. The Walla Walla Valley is also served by nonstop flights via Alaska Airlines. For more information on the Walla Walla Valley and its wines, visit or

In addition to the Walla Walla Valley’s first-place win in Best Wine Region category, Long Shadows Vintners took fourth place in the Best Tasting Room category for the second consecutive year.

“I can think of no better way to honor wines from Washington state in general, and Walla Walla Valley wines specifically, than being recognized as America’s Best Wine Region by a vote of the public,” said Robert Hansen, executive director of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance. “It’s a testament to the outstanding terroir, meticulous craftsmanship, and to the men and women who are committed to elevating the Walla Walla Valley from both a wine production and tourism perspective.”

A panel of five wine industry experts chose 20 finalists from a list of more than 250 American wine-growing regions. The public was then asked to vote daily for their favorite region between July 13 and Aug. 12.

“The Walla Walla Valley is no stranger to being recognized for the quality of its wines and the experience that awaits those who visit, including being recognized as America’s Best Wine Town in the 2018 Sunset Travel Awards,” said Visit Walla Walla board chair Tabitha Crenshaw. “Given today’s proliferation of American wines and wine regions, this is a particularly proud moment. It is truly special when the very people who purchase and enjoy your wines, and who choose to visit our incredible community, validate the quality and experience you are striving to achieve.”

For more information on the Walla Walla Valley and its wines, visit or

About Walla Walla:

As the unofficial capital of Washington wine country, Walla Walla is home to more than 120 wineries, a nationally recognized culinary scene, access to an abundance of outdoor recreation, and an arts & entertainment scene that rivals cities many times its size. This community of just over 30,000 residents is known for many things, including its friendliness and hospitality, the quality of its wine, and of course the famous Walla Walla Sweet Onion. An easy and scenic four-hour drive from Seattle, Portland, or Boise, Walla Walla can also be accessed via Alaska Airlines daily non-stop flights from Seattle. For more information and to begin planning a trip to Walla Walla, visit

About the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance:

The Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance is a nonprofit wine industry membership organization whose primary mission is to build an internationally acclaimed Walla Walla Valley wine brand among consumers, media, and trade by providing marketing programs on behalf of member wineries, vineyards, and partners.  The Wine Alliance functions as the leading informational resource for consumers, media, and trade interested in learning more about the Valley’s wine industry.

Students craft plans to increase Tri‑Cities millennial tourism

By Becky Kramer, Carson College of Business

COVID-19 turned the team project in Joan Giese’s Marketing Management 495 class on its head.

The assignment required students to develop strategies for bringing tourists in their 20s and 30s to the Tri-Cities in Central Washington. But as the project got underway, the state’s “stay home, stay safe” orders took effect.

“Last semester, we had a very devastating external factor, and that was the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Giese, clinical associate professor of marketing at WSU Tri-Cities. “The impact on the tourism industry has been astronomical.”

Responding to the crisis became a learning opportunity, Giese says. Her class rose to the challenge, crafting plans to draw millennials to the Richland-Kennewick-Pasco area as Washington’s economy reopens.

Visit Tri-Cities, the area’s visitor and convention bureau, will incorporate the students’ ideas in its future planning, says Michael Novakovich, the president and chief executive officer.

“We’re all seasoned marketers here, and we think the students did some really outstanding work,” said Novakovich (’10 Bus. Admin., ’16 MBA). “They identified some things we are already working on, validating our efforts. And they had unique ideas as well.”

Tourism is a $500 million industry in the Tri-Cities, employing more than 6,300 people. The area is home to wineries, golf courses, live music venues, art galleries, and tours of the Manhattan Project B Reactor and the decommissioned USS Triton submarine.

With 269,500 residents, the Tri-Cities has a competitive advantage for attracting tourists as Washington’s phased reopening continues, according to Novakovich. “We offer urban experiences without the high-population densities people want to avoid at this time,” he said.

Drawing on the Tri-Cities attributes

Students suggested ways for Visit Tri-Cities to increase the area’s allure for millennial travelers. Among their recommendations:

By offering activities and spaces for children, wineries can become family destinations for travelers.
Social media is an important way to reach millennial audiences, and Visit Tri-Cities can capitalize on that through the use of social media influencers and hashtags, contests, and raffles to promote user-generated content that can be shared and reposted.
The “Tri-Cities” label may not resonate with people from other parts of Washington. Helping define what the Tri-Cities is could increase the area’s draw for travelers.
Creating a Tri-Cities Pass would open prospective tourists’ eyes to the area’s attractions, while offering a discount for bundling activities.
Before Washington’s “stay home, stay safe” order went into effect, Novakovich took the class on a bus tour of the Tri-Cities. “I was flabbergasted by all of the stuff you could do—I felt like a tourist in my own town,” said, Abraham Mendoza (’20, Bus. Admin.), who grew up in Pasco.

He and teammates Valexa Hernandez, Valerie Long, Brittany Stanton-Dameron, and Cade Timmons crafted a Tri-Cities Pass for 20-something, cost-conscious travelers. It included options such as kayaking or paddleboarding on the Columbia River, a visit to the B-Reactor, a wine cruise, local cuisine, and a farmers’ market.

“We combined what we thought were the Tri-Cities’ main attractions and made it easy for people to purchase a pass to go do those things,” said Long, a senior from Richland. The students hope the Tri-Cities Pass becomes a reality.

“If they put something like this together,” Long said, “I’ll definitely be buying it.”

Exposing students to the tourism industry
Besides benefitting Visit Tri-Cities, the students’ ideas will be shared with the Washington Tourism Alliance, says Andi Day (’91 Hist.).

Day is the vice chair of the alliance, a nonprofit that promotes Washington’s tourism industry, and executive director of the Long Beach Peninsula’s Visitors Bureau. She’s also the initiator of the class project on destination marketing, which she suggested at a Carson College National Board of Advisors meeting.

“We welcome opportunities to expose students to the tourism industry and this facet of marketing,” Day said. “It was great to get their perspectives as well.”

Day was particularly interested in the students’ Tri-Cities Pass. The alliance is working on a similar passport idea to promote in-state tourism as COVID-19 related restrictions ease.

“One of our campaigns is about exploring your own backyard,” she said. “We’re fortunate to live in a really beautiful state, and we see it as a way to promote safe travel. We can direct tourists to less crowded areas, away from large events to safer activities.”

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

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

June 2, 2020

Media Contact:
Christina Pivarnik
(360) 531-0127/

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.

WTA Names David Blandford as Interim Executive Director

April 28, 2020

Media Contact:
Christina Pivarnik
(360) 531-0127/

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.”