The creative minds at Visit Tri-Cities have just released a fun new video that encourages social distancing. Based on the song The Distance by Cake, the video features Visit Tri-Cities employees and scenes from around the Tri-Cities. Click here to check out Social Distance.
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.”
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.
The tourism industry in Washington and throughout the world is facing an unprecedented crisis. While we’re hopeful that our state can slowly begin to open in May, but the return to normalcy will be counted in years rather than months. The WTA remains committed to doing everything possible to keep our partners and industry stakeholders connected to the resources they need to navigate this crisis. We are continuing to work with industry leaders to remind legislators about the importance of tourism to our economy and to craft guidelines to safely reopen tourism-related businesses in our state.
Here is an updated list of links to help you find the resources you need:
Federal Resources CARES Act: This toolkit provided by US Travel helps tourism-related businesses and organizations navigate the full CARES Act. US Travel also has provided a helpful FAQ about the CARES Act.
- Paycheck Protection Program (PPP): Congressional leaders and the administration forged an agreement to supplement the program. The $481 billion agreement provides an additional $321 billion for the PPP, $60 billion for the EIDL program, $75 billion for healthcare providers and $25 billion to expand testing capacity (including $11 billion for states to increase testing).
- SBA Debt Relief: The SBA is providing a financial reprieve to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. This covers all principal, interest and fees on current and new SBA 7(a) loans made through September 27, 2020 for up to six months.
- Express Bridge Loan: The SBA’s Express Bridge Loan allows small businesses that have an existing business relationship with a participating lender to access up to $25,000 quickly.
Small Business Development Centers: These centers will help you navigate available SBA loans and provide you with no-cost business consulting.
Export Credit Insurance: This program protects you in case your customers overseas are slow on paying receivables or go out of business. It allows you to commit to export sales without fear of loss during the pandemic.
- On 4/27 Governor Inslee announced easing of outdoor restrictions.
- The Department of Commerce has created a list of COVID-19 Business Resources.
- Small Business Resiliency Assistance: offering technical assistance for small business owners from culturally and historically disadvantaged communities.
- Small Business COVID-19 Back-to-Work Planner: (Part 1) is designed to help plan the steps necessary to open your business once the state says it’s safe to do so.
- Humanities Washington Grant: Humanities Washington is honored to provide rapid-response funding to humanities and cultural non-profit organizations in Washington State facing financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus. Funding for this grant is provided by the CARES Act and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
- Washington Hospitality Association: A coronavirus resource guide for the restaurant and lodging industry.
If you have questions or other resources, please don’t hesitate to communicate with us. Contact Mike Moe at email@example.com.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 28, 2020
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.”
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, our industry has been severely impacted. Through our research, we know that visitation to Washington is down over 70% and this doesn’t include the loss of business from our in-state customers. And we’ve heard from so many of you and understand the significant challenges you face.
For many years, the WTA has relied on our amazing members for support and we can’t thank you enough. As a token of our appreciation, we would like to offer those who have paid their 2020 membership dues a credit for advertising on ExperienceWA for the dollar total of your membership. This credit can be used at any time in 2020 or 2021. Contact me at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or at 425-444-0589 to learn more. For those who have not paid for membership this year, we completely understand that you need to prioritize your business and employees during this crisis. We will extend your membership through the rest of 2020.
Additionally, the WTA will continue to provide the most up-to-date information on how businesses can utilize federal and state resources to stay afloat during this crisis. Make sure to regularly check our industry website, watourismalliance.com for the most current information. In the meantime, we would like to give you an update on what the WTA is actively working on to provide support to our members and industry stakeholders.
The WTA recently launched a new website called showWAlove.com that gives Washingtonians a chance to support their local tourism-related businesses by purchasing gift cards now for later use. This project is completely free for businesses and users and so far close to 1000 businesses have been listed. If you offer an online gift card and would like to set up a free listing, just go to showWAlove.com and click on Post a Listing or click here. It only takes 2 minutes. If you don’t have an online gift card option, but want one, click here to quickly and easily make one.
Please continue to communicate with the WTA and your regional DMO partners. Our industry has never faced a challenge like this, but if we work together and use our collective ingenuity, we will come out of this stronger than ever before.
On March 27th, the President signed into law the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” (the CARES Act), the largest economic relief act in our country’s history. The tourism industry in Washington has been devastated by this crisis, but tourism-related businesses can find relief through new or strengthened existing federal programs as a result of this legislation.
Click here for a helpful guide to relief is available to different types of businesses or organizations.
Click here for an explanation of the Small Business Administration Coronavirus Economic Injury Disaster Loans. *Grants of up to $10,000 is available within three days, regardless of approval: A cash advance (grant) of the loan, up to $10,000, can be provided to the borrower upon request. SBA is required to provide the grant within three days of receiving the loan application. The grant is provided regardless of whether the borrower is ultimately approved for the loan and does not have to be repaid.
Click here to learn about Small Business Express Loans. These are for small businesses who need quick a one-time loan for a major expense. Example: A restaurant needs to replace a walk-in refrigerator.
Click here for a guide on the Emergency Stabilization Fund.
Click here to learn about Economic Relief for Airports and Tourism, including Community Development Block Grants.
It is expected that the U.S. Treasury, Small Business Association and other agencies will need some time to fully implement these resources and application features, though it is hoped that most will be operational in the next two weeks.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 30, 2020
The Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) today launched showWAlove.com, a new online program to help support local Washington businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. Data from national tourism research firm Tourism Economics estimates that 4.6 million U.S. travel industry jobs may be lost by May 31 – roughly 40 percent of all tourism-related jobs. That constitutes more than 75,000 jobs in Washington State and means local restaurants, hotels, attractions, tour operators, and destination marketing organizations will bear the brunt of these losses.
Buy Now. Play Later.
While social distancing restrictions are in effect, the showWAlove.com offers a platform for Washingtonians to help hard-working business owners and employees. People can support their favorite local businesses by purchasing gift cards for future use. They can search for restaurants, lodgings and retail establishments by region or type of business and then connect with that business to buy gift cards.
Hundreds of businesses have gift card offers on showWAlove.com and inventory continues to grow. Businesses that don’t currently offer gift cards will be able to learn how to expand their online presence on the showWAlove.com website through webinars and additional resources. The WTA is committed to helping the small businesses in Washington use every tool available to get through this uncertain time.
“Recovery has to begin now,” said David Blandford, WTA Co-Chair. “This is just one initial measure of support and others will follow. We hope this program can help stabilize businesses and preserve jobs. Together we can show Washington’s tourism industry love during this unprecedented crisis.”
About the Washington Tourism Alliance
The Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) is a 501[c]6 organization established by industry stakeholders with the sole mission to develop and sustain 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