December 2014 Newsletter

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR UPDATE 
 
Louise Stanton-Masten 

 As 2014 comes to a close the WTA is already looking forward to the important work of 2015.  During this past year we continued work on several successful enterprises, including further build out and enhancement of our visitor website, ExperienceWA.com, international marketing with our partners the Port of Seattle and Visit Seattle, operation of our toll-free call center and in partnership with the Washington Lodging Association and SagaCity Media, publication and distribution of the Washington State Visitors’ Guide.

A major step in building for the future was passage of our long-term funding study bill legislation (SHB2229).  With input from our members and industry stakeholders, we delivered our report to the Legislature on December 1st which outlines the elements of our proposal for long-term funding legislation.  See “AND NOW THE REAL WORK BEGINS” below for more details on the report and legislative proposal.

We are now focused to move forward with this legislation during the 2015 session and we invite you to join us in these efforts.  The WTA annual Tourism Summit and Day in Olympia is on the calendar for February 12, beginning at 9:00 am.  Click here for registration details.  We hope you’ll be part of the tourism industry team supporting our legislation in Olympia that day and throughout the legislative session.  The entire WTA team, our Board of Directors, committee volunteers and staff, appreciate your past support and look forward to working together with you again in 2015.

 

AND NOW THE REAL WORK BEGINS!
Becky Bogard  

Since the formation of the Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) in 2011, one of its goals has been to propose a way to have a robust statewide tourism marketing program. For the past 3 years, WTA leaders have been working to structure a program that will be more robust and impactful than past programs. Based on legislation passed in 2014, the WTA, with the guidance of its stakeholders and the assistance of several state agencies, submitted a report to the Washington State Legislature on December 1. The report outlined the elements of the proposal that will be turned into legislation for the upcoming 2015 legislative session.

The basic elements of the proposal are the following:

Based on principles of industry funded and industry implemented, dedicated and protected funds and accountability

Primary source of funds comes from assessment on five tourism related business sectors – lodging, food service, attractions, transportation and retail

Assessments based generally on sector contributions to statewide tourism revenues and calculated to raise $7.5 annually from about 15,000 different businesses

Assessments to be collected through existing systems used by the Secretary of State and the Department of Revenue

Assessments will be deposited in a non-appropriated fund and protected by the strong legislative language.

Fund administered by the Washington Tourism Marketing Authority, which is composed primarily of representatives from the assessed sectors. Additionally the Secretary of State, the director of the Department of Revenue and two representatives from destination marketing organizations would serve on the Authority.

Authority will be limited to using the fund for two purposes: 1) to contract with a statewide non-profit organization, whose sole purpose is marketing the state to tourists (e.g., WTA), to formulate and implement a statewide tourism marketing program and 2) to conduct research to determine the effectiveness of the marketing program by evaluating the growth of tourism.

Non-assessed tourism related businesses such as tribes, port districts, cruise ships and airlines could participate in the statewide marketing program by making contributions directly to the WTA.

This is a proposal with broad industry support. However, that support is not unanimous and it will be important for supporters to talk to their legislators and emphasize the need to get Washington State back on the tourism map. Please plan to attend the Washington Tourism Summit on February 12 in Olympia to learn more about the proposal and to let your legislators know how you feel.

At this point the legislature is still organizing its committees and their membership. As soon as the entire committee structure is known, it will be posted on the WTA website.

We must get this proposal adopted this year and begin implementing its provisions. Because of the school funding needs there is basically no state money for anything else. While there is some feeling that there will be new revenues, they would have to go to fund basic education as mandated by the state supreme court. The only alternative for tourism is to have an industry funded and industry directed statewide tourism marketing program. Please join WTA and its members to gain legislative approval of this proposal.

 

THE 5TH ANNUAL WTA SUMMIT AND DAY IN OLYMPIA

Registration is now open for the 2015 WTA Summit! Register by January 16th to take advantage of early registration pricing. We also encourage you to spread the word and invite colleagues – save $10 per person when you register 2 or more together!

Click hereto register or here for more information, including this year’s agenda.

 

THE LONG BEACH PENINSULA HAS A NEW TRAIL FOR THE NEW YEAR!

Long Beach

photo credit: Mark Downey

The Discovery Trail on Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula, listed by USA Today as one of “15 Fantastic U.S. Bike Trails”, is about to be even better! A trail extension is currently finishing up and due to be open by December 23. The stunningly scenic Discovery Trail, ideal for biking and pedestrians, goes between the Port of Ilwaco, over the Cape Disappointment headlands, through Beard’s Hollow up to the 20-foot tall bronze sculpture of “Clark’s Tree” (marking the end of the Lewis and Clark Trail), just north of Long Beach. The trail is an experience in natural and cultural history as users traverse between distinctly different habitats peppered with interpretive displays and markers.

The 3/4-mile extension will wind through awe-inspiring ancient Sitka trees following what was once the old light keeper’s boardwalk. The trail will arrive at a newly renovated parking area with an interpretive kiosk, restrooms and sidewalks serving the 117 year old North Head Lighthouse and the Lighthouse Keepers vacation rentals operated by Cape Disappointment State Park.

Ultimately, the park would like to continue expanding the trail toward Waikiki Beach and park offices. Community members and organizations are working in a concerted effort throughout Pacific County to extend trails for visitors and locals alike. In Ocean Park a new ¼ -mile “Beach to Bay” trail has recently opened and will be extended all the way to the ocean by next summer.

There are also proposals in the works for a trail segment between Fort Columbia State Park in Chinook and Middle Village Station Camp, part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park. Other trail links proposed would connect Ilwaco with the Vandalia subdivision and Ilwaco airport, along with an extension on the north end of the trail connecting to Ocean Park.

All projects are part of an envisioned 24 mile plus Discovery Trail system connecting the area’s coastal communities, four State Parks, a National Park, Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, two lighthouses, restaurants, lodging, galleries, schools, and museums.

 

EXPERIENCEWA.COM REACHES MAXIMUM INDUSTRY EXPOSURE IN 2014!
Miles Media

ExperienceWA.com continues to see growth with the new site, increasing visits 25% over last year. The site has already seen 550,000 visitors to date and over 80%  are unique visitors. That has translated into 1.6 million+ pageviews. Visitors view 3 pages per session on average and session duration (time-on-site) is strong at 02:51. 85% of traffic is from the US, showing additional growth potential from Canada and other international markets with further targeting and promotion.

60% of traffic in 2014 is from desktop with 25% on mobile and 15% from tablet – showing a move away from pure desktop planning, as seen in the industry overall and further proof that the responsive design ExperienceWA is built in is critical to serving the travel audience.

Regions & Cities pages, Things to Do & Events are the top content on site. Please be sure your listings are up to date and you are submitting events via http://data.experiencewa.com/user/login/to contribute to this content. Also, please link to us if you haven’t already – easy to follow instructions can be found here:http://www.experiencewa.com/link

 

2015 PORT OF SEATTLE TOURISM MISSION TO LONDON

The WTA extends an invitation from The Port of Seattle, our partner in international tourism. The Port is providing an opportunity for your organization to join them in London as they celebrate 30 years of promoting tourism to Seattle and Washington State.

A Tourism Mission will take place during the week of April 27-30, 2015, and your investment of $1,200.00 will allow participation in a number of planned activities which give you opportunities for one-on-one meetings with top travel trade and media, a mini tradeshow and an option to conduct training at tour agencies.

Join the Port as they celebrate the past 30 years and take the first steps towards the next 30.

Click here for more information. Please RSVP no later than February 5, 2014.

 

U.S. OPEN IMPACT

Next June, the U.S. Open will be played at Chamber’s Bay Golf Course in University Place near Tacoma. It will be one of the largest sporting events ever to take place in Washington State. On December 3rd, Louise and Mike from the WTA attended a meeting with Danny Sink, the Championship Director of the 2015 U.S. Open. Also in attendance were Bennish Brown, the Executive Director of Travel Tacoma, George Sharp, the Executive Director of the Olympia Lacey Tumwater Visitor & Convention Bureau and a number of other representative from DMOs around the Puget Sound area.

The purpose of the meeting was to help us understand what impact the U.S. Open will have on Washington State. According to the USGA (United States Golf Association), based on previous U.S. Opens, the tournament will bring $171 million to the region, including $24 million in tax dollars. The average visitor will spend $1,497 while in Washington State. It’s estimated that 235,000 people will attend the U.S. Open, but the tournament will be broadcasted to more than 100 million people worldwide in 180 countries. This is truly a chance to showcase our beautiful state to the world.

The TV coverage will inspire future visitors to Washington and the people attending the event will hopefully be inspired to return. The best way to take advantage this year, however, is to encourage attendees to come early or extend their trip. The WTA has created a U.S. Open page on ExperienceWA as well as advertising targeted toward golf enthusiasts. To learn more about this advertising opportunity, contact Mike Moe at 425-444-0589 or email him at mike@watourismalliance.com.

 

VISIT RAINIER WEBSITE SUCCESS

In 2015, Visit Rainier will celebrate its 10th year as a Destination Marketing Organization for the Mt. Rainier Region. Visit Rainier’s board of directors strategically established the program to capitalize on the strengths of a digital based marketing program. A foundation was created relying on the website and social media to promote the area.

On October 31, 2015 VisitRainier rolled out its third version of the continuously evolving website, VisitRainier.com. Throughout the relatively short existence of the organization, stories have been collected, photos taken of activities and all travel related businesses identified to deliver information to the visitor. Admittedly, due to the popularity of Mt. Rainier National Park, we found a ready-made audience eagerly waiting to learn more.

Lodging tax revenue provides economic support for the program from Pierce, Lewis and part of King Counties. Our service area is made up of mainly 63 small privately owned lodging establishments; they are now heavily dependent upon referrals from VisitRainer.com. Thousands of referrals come to them each year via our Book Direct availability program. Hiking is the main activity searched for on the website. VisitRainier.com lists over 135 hikes, 10 drive tours, and nearly 100 events and attractions throughout the year. VisitRainier.com is a one stop shopping program for all things Mt. Rainier.

With over 2 million pageviews in 2014, we have been highly successful. It will take an ongoing investment of time and resources to stay competitive with other desirable national and international destinations. We are proud to provide resources for one of Washington’s “Must See” attractions. Visit Rainier’s marketing efforts focus entirely on sending traffic to the website, where one of the top visited pages is the lodging page. The enewsletter campaign, social media, internet advertising and content development are strategically used to encourage people to come and stay!

 

WTA MEMBERS IN THE NEWS:

DONATE BLANKETS IN SNOHOMISH COUNTY

TRI-CITIES TO HOST 2015 HAPO GOLD CUP

 

SUBMIT YOUR STORIES

Want to brag about something your destination was recently recognized for? Have news that impacts Washington State tourism? Please add the WTA to your distribution news list! We’re always looking for story ideas for the WTA monthly newsletter! To submit a story idea, email Diana Thibado at diana@watourismalliance.com.

 

WTA WELCOMES NOVEMBER MEMBERS

NEW MEMBERS:

Waterbrook Winery

RENEWING MEMBERS:

Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism, Canopy Tours NW, Heathman Lodge, Holiday Inn – Downtown Everett, Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Ledgestone Hotel, Jefferson County Tourism, Macy’s, MarDon Resort, MOHAI, Seattle Premium Outlets, Seattle University, Shelton Mason County Chamber of Commerce, Silverdale Chamber of Commerce, Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort, Starline Luxury Coaches, Sugar Mountain (Beecher’s Cheese)

If you have not yet joined the WTA and would like to become a member, please contact our Director of Business Development and Media Sales Mike Moe at mike@watourismalliance.com or join today online here.