Tourism is the fourth-largest industry in our state, yet Washington is the only state in the U.S. that does not have a robust tourism promotion program – since the State Legislature closed the state tourism office in 2011.
Now two equivalent bills, House Bill 1938 and Senate Bill 5916, have been introduced in the Legislature that would enable Washington State to begin actively marketing again to potential visitors. And visitors are good for local business. When out-of- state travelers spend money on hotels, restaurants, shopping and transportation, they not only help those businesses, they pay taxes that benefit Washingtonians. Visitor spending in Washington generates $400 in tax revenue for each Washington household – which means a $400 reduction in annual household taxes for each family.
Snohomish County benefits greatly from tourism. Visitors spend $930 million in Snohomish County annually, contributing more than $67.3 million in state and local tax revenues. By spending money at local businesses, visitors support employment of Snohomish County residents.
The Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) is aiming to re-establish a robust statewide tourism marketing program via HB 1938 and SB 5916. These bills don’t contain any state funding; instead they ask the State to help collect funds – because the State already has the collection mechanism in place, while the WTA doesn’t. Funding will be generated by the tourism industry itself through assessments and voluntary contributions. Through these assessments, the WTA estimates a $7.5 million target budget.
HB 1938 and SB 5916 make good business sense – they will help increase travel to Washington, visitor spending, jobs and tax revenues.