IITA Steps to Success Travel Trade Webinar featuring Jennifer Ackerson

May 18, 9:30-11:30 a.m.

The WTA presents this free tourism development training webinar on how to work with inbound travel professionals, create successful partnerships and develop resources to stimulate international business with global re-opening. Whether you are new to the industry or a veteran of working with the travel trade, come update your knowledge and hear from our panel about what is expected and vital for the return of international inbound travel. Click HERE to register for this free event!

Jennifer Ackerson, President of ALON Marketing Group, a successful tourism industry veteran, and creator of the International Inbound Travel Association Steps to Success Program, will guide you through:

• A look at the value of working with international travel trade and how it is critical to developing your tourism business

• Achievable step-by-step insight on how to prepare for this market including developing product for inbound operators to sell

• Tips on how the entire destination can increasingly work together to amplify success in attaining its share of international tourism

The benefits of working in the international market:
• International visitors stay longer, dive deeper into the destination, and spend more money
• The ability to procure year-round business and during off-peak periods when you need the business the most
• Increase international visitation through the inbound travel trade that have the potential to provide you with consistent long-term business

Featured presenters include:

Leslie Womack – Mayflower Hotel Seattle

Leslie will share how her her success story in using receptive tour operators to build consistent, year-around business.

Chris Pilley – Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours

Chris is the owner and CEO for Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours. He will discuss what he looks for in a travel trade partner.

Gisa Kusserow-Hanson – ATP (former AlliedTPro)

Gisa is a Senior Product Manager at AlliedTPro. She will discuss how to come prepared with the right resources to a buyer appointment

Why should you attend?

Accommodations – Are there key need periods or room types you want to sell? Would you like to develop relationships with select partners you can rely on for long term repeat business?
Attractions/Activities/Tour/Local tour guides/Breweries/Wineries – You are the reason visitors want to visit! Learn how to have your business booked in advance!
Arts/Cultural Institutions/Museums/Historic Places/Performing Arts – You are the essence of your destination showcasing your destination’s history and uniqueness! Working with the travel trade will be the way to add visitation, increase global awareness, and attract key markets.
Dining – Every visitor must eat! Travel trade can bring you visitors for all 3 meal periods and during your off-peak periods. Individuals as well as Groups have an opportunity here!
Retail/Services – Shopping is the #1 activity for visitors globally. Learn ways to drive visitors to your retail space as a premade decision before they arrive while creating fun partner programs.
Transportation – International visitors travel by all modes.
Parks & Recreation – Visitors who arrive from the travel trade make pre-determined choices on where they will visit. If of interest is pushing visitors into year-round periods and changing their visitor habits, then this session is for you.
Sports – You can see more bookings in advance and be able to push seats that are harder to sell or time periods when you want to increase your ticket sales!
Events/Festivals – Have partners who promote your events and festivals fill the space as well as, assist you in having a successful event!
Tourism Councils/Chambers/CVBs/DMOs – Help your stakeholder tourism businesses achieve success because you understand what is important for them to be doing. In addition to attending yourself, encourage your stakeholders to learn along with you.

Your attendance will be time well spent and we look forward to working together to promote Washington as a desired destination for the rebound of international visitation.

Click HERE to register for this free event!


Media Contact:
Christina Pivarnik
(360) 531-0127/christina@pivarnik.com

Washington Tourism Alliance Names Michelle Thana
as Director of Marketing

SEATTLE – The Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) announced the addition of Michelle Thana to the newly created role of Director of Marketing, effective May 17, 2021. Thana will lead the organization’s consumer marketing program, including strategic planning, consumer campaigns, advertising, direct marketing, social media and destination brand marketing and communications.

Thana most recently served as Director of Marketing at Visit Vancouver USA. From 2019 to present she directed the organization’s marketing, creative and communications programs. She managed marketing and advertising agencies and led brand development, as well as contributing to the organization’s long-term vision and planning.

From 2014 to 2019, Thana served on Travel Portland’s marketing team, first as Marketing Coordinator and then as Marketing Manager. In the latter role, Thana implemented annual marketing campaigns that attracted overnight visitors, managed consumer and social media agencies and strengthened collaboration between the consumer agency, internal digital team and digital agency. Thana also coordinated cross-departmental campaigns for domestic and international travelers and worked closely with the organization’s overseas marketing team.

From 2013 to 2014, Thana served as Lead Creative Strategist at Brandefied, where she managed more than 300 Facebook and Google ad campaigns, developed and executed digital marketing plans for clients and managed content fulfillment for clients company-wide.

“Michelle knows destination marketing across platforms and has strong experience at the national and global levels, as well the local and community levels,” said David Blandford, WTA Executive Director. “The entire WTA team is excited to welcome her, and we know her experience and leadership will be key to growing statewide tourism marketing programs that help travel, tourism and hospitality communities and businesses recover while fostering future resiliency.”

Thana’s professional distinctions include being named to Destinations Council’s Emerging Leaders and Destinations International’s 30 Under 30.

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 developing and 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

Click here for the full press release.

WTA Seeks Director of Marketing

The WTA is seeking qualified applicants for a new Director of Marketing position. Click here for the job description.

If you are interested and you meet the selection criteria please respond with a resume and cover letter and prior to 5 p.m., January 27, 2021. Applicants must be a Washington State resident or willing to relocate at their own expense. Send resume and cover letter to wtainfo@watourismalliance.com.

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 www.wallawalla.org or www.wallawallawine.com.

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 www.wallawalla.org or www.wallawallawine.com.

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 www.wallawalla.org.

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