Governor Signs Tourism Funding Study Bill

3/28/14

Tourism Industry Leaders Applaud Governor and Legislature, While Industry Concerns Remain About Market Share Decline Following Release of New Data

Olympia, Wash. – On March 27th, 2014 Governor Jay Inslee signed Substitute House Bill 2229 that supports the development of funding for a long-term tourism marketing program.

The bill recognizes a structure, level of funding and governance for a state tourism marketing program and directs state agencies to work with the WTA to support a mechanism for ongoing tourism marketing.

Earlier this month, the Washington State House and Senate passed the bill. Prime sponsors included Senator John Braun (R, Centralia), Senator Marilyn Chase (D, Shoreline), Representative Jeff Morris (D, Mount Vernon), Representative Sherry Appleton (D, Poulsbo) and Representative Norma Smith (R, Langley). The bill was vigorously promoted by the Washington Tourism Alliance and the statewide tourism industry.

The need for long-term tourism funding is underscored by state tourism research  issued today which indicates that tourism in Washington State improved slightly in 2013, but that the rate of growth has slowed in Washington while the rate of growth has accelerated in the U.S. travel industry as a whole. The reports entitled Washington State Travel Impacts & Visitor Volume 1991 – 2013 p and Washington State County Travel Impacts & Visitor Volume 1991 – 2013 p., prepared by Dean Runyon Associates for the Washington Tourism Alliance, follow preliminary data issued by the WTA in January.

According to this most recent data, from 2012 to 2013 direct visitor spending in Washington State was up 2.4 percent, after the previous year’s 3.6 percent increase.  Visitation also grew at a slower rate; the total number of overnight person trips of 37.2 million increased by 2.0 percent, while the rate of increase in 2012 was 2.3 percent.  Other data detailed in the report show similar trends in comparing 2012 and 2013 growth rates for Washington State.

Meanwhile, at the national level, the report states that there has been an acceleration of the growth rate of the U.S. travel industry. For example, visitor spending was $900 billion in 2013, an increase of 3.6 percent over 2012; the rate from 2011 to 2012 was a 2.8 percent increase.

“The WTA continues to be concerned about the slowing rate of tourism growth in Washington, particularly in comparison with the national growth rate,” said Louise Stanton-Masten, WTA Executive Director. “We believe these figures support our message of the need for long-term funding to support statewide tourism marketing.  We applaud Governor Inslee and members of the Legislature for recognizing this need, supporting our efforts and passing this important legislation.”

The WTA’s tiered long-term funding framework would raise funds from key sectors of the tourism industry including lodging, food service, transportation, attractions and entertainment, and retail. No state funds would be needed. SHB 2229 requires the WTA to submit a report to the legislature in December 2014 which will propose the collection method and governance structure to implement the funding proposal.

Since the closure of the state tourism office in 2011, the private, non-profit, industry-led WTA has operated on a minimal budget with limited support, establishing incremental funds through membership and corporate sponsorships. Additionally, last year the WTA secured short-term bridge funding from the state to underwrite the basics of a tourism marketing program including the state’s consumer travel web site, postage for mailing the Washington State Visitors’ Guide, operation of a travel call center, research and international marketing.

Gov Signature

Photo provided by Washington State Legislative Support Services