May 2015 Newsletter

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR UPDATE  
Louise Stanton-Masten   

 As the WTA has been reporting to our members and stakeholders the past several months our focus has been, and will continue to be, on passage of our legislation for long-term industry supported funding for statewide tourism marketing. Currently, though, our attention is on securing interim funding in this year’s State budget which will enable us to continue our current programs. (See Special Sessions Continue later in the newsletter.)

Over the next several months the WTA Board, staff and legislative counsel will be working to refine our proposal and build a campaign for passage of the legislation during the 2016 session. We’ll be working to identify and secure additional support from the businesses subject to the assessment fees. We’ll be actively engaging our state legislators to garner additional support for our legislation beyond that which we had this year. And we’ll be reaching out to you for input and support. I encourage you to please stay involved and help us in achieving our goal of achieving adequate funding to support our statewide tourism marketing program.

 
SPECIAL SESSIONS CONTINUE 
Becky Bogard   

 The current state budget provides for funding of Washington State government through June 30, 2015. Without a new budget that would take effect on July 1, non-essential state government services would have to shut down. Funding for certain programs, including the current funding for tourism promotion provided by the interim funding that the WTA received in 2013, comes to an end.

As we all know by now, the Legislature failed to pass a new budget and began a special session on April 28. The state constitution provides that a special session can last for 30 days. That means the current special session ends on May 28.

It is clear that the Legislature is not going to have a budget for the 2015-17 biennium by May 28. Governor Inslee has already said he will call the Legislature into a second special session starting May 29. Hopefully legislators can approve a new budget before June 28, when the second special session would be due to end.

Why the lack of agreement? The Senate, controlled by Republicans, has approved a budget that does not require new taxes. Since that budget was approved, the state revenue forecasters predicted an increase of $400 million in the state general fund. Even Governor Inslee was reported to have said that a tax package the size of what he originally proposed is not needed.

Do not, however, read this to mean he has abandoned a desire for some new revenue. Both he and his colleagues in the Democratically controlled House would like to see additional revenues to meet the needs of the McCleary decision on K-12 funding without affecting higher education and other government programs.

Part of this budget dilemma impacts tourism funding. When the Senate passed its budget, it included a proposal for $1 million in interim funding to continue the current level of activity that included website development, operation of a call center, sending travel guides, research, and international programs. The House had no such provision in its budget. These funds would allow WTA to continue its programmatic work while refining the proposal for a reliable long term funding source.

WTA has been working with budget negotiators to make certain that the final budget includes these funds. We have gotten some positive indications from both House and Senate negotiators although they caution that the size of the budget “box” has not yet been decided. We believe they know the value of tourism and want to make certain that we do not reduce our efforts.

The best way for WTA members to influence the final budget is to ask your own legislators to talk to their caucus’ budget negotiators about the value of tourism. We need those negotiators to keep the $1 million for interim funding for the WTA for another biennium!

 

UK TOURISM MISSION 
Jane Kilburn, WTA Board of Directors and Director, Tourism Development, Port of Seattle

 May 26 – 29, 2015

A delegation of 11 from destinations, business and government gathered in London at the end of April to make key contacts with UK tour operators and travel trade media and to commemorate 30 years of promoting Seattle and Washington State in the UK. This market is one of the longest standing and most prolific international long-haul markets for our destination. WTA Executive Director Louise Stanton-Masten and board member Jane Kilburn, International Tourism Development Director at the Port of Seattle, were members of the delegation.

Led by the Port of Seattle and the international tourism partnership’s UK representative firm First PR, the group met with about 50 individual tour operators-conducting training for key agency staff and meeting others 1:1 in a mini-trade show. Part of the group spent a morning conducting radio interviews about our destination, reaching hundreds of thousands of listeners. That group also met with UK journalists over lunch. These meetings provided targeted and rich opportunities to introduce and reinforce the beauty, variety and ease of travel to our state. The UK traveler spends at least 7 nights abroad on their vacation, they are looking for authentic experiences and they are very interested in food and drink, such as wine and breweries.

An educational session provided the delegation insights into the UK market from the perspectives of an airline, large and small tour agencies, and regional media. Last year, more than $3 million in advertising equivalency media was generated for our destination in this market and more than 100 tour agencies feature our destination. In the past year alone, we have seen healthy growth in the number of hotels offered (11%), cruises sold (20%) and in tours sold (28%). In 2014, Delta Aril Lines initiated service from Heathrow Airport, joining British Airways which has been the sole non-stop carrier into Seattle for a number of years.

The highlight of the mission was the celebration reception and dinner at the Tower Bridge, where the delegation welcomed 90 guests who have supported this destination over the years by promoting our destination to a variety of clients or by covering our part of the world in the media. Delta Airlines was a major sponsor of the evening.

 
COUNTING DOWN TO THE US OPEN AT CHAMBERS BAY
Jaime Vogt, Vice President of Marketing

With U.S. Open banners lining the city streets, you can already see something big is coming to Pierce County, Washington. Travel Tacoma + Pierce Countyhas been working with the U.S.G.A. and our local and regional partnerships to make sure that visitors won’t soon forget their historic attendance to this groundbreaking Championship.

Travel Tacoma has developed an ambassador program, for community volunteers to welcome U.S. Open guests to the County, answer questions, and help them discover restaurants and attractions in the area. To help with this, a new mobile and tablet friendly website was launched in May, along with a special dining guide and visitor guide.

Travel Tacoma + Pierce County is also making a splash at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. A joint advertising campaign with the City of Tacoma has caught the attention of several travelers passing through the airport. Ambassadors, destination advertising and welcome messages at Hudson News stores will let U.S. Open arriving passengers know that they are coming to a community that is engaged and excited to have them here.

 
THE EXPERIENCEWA WEBSITE IS SHOWING SIGNIFICANT GROWTH 
Mike Moe 
Chambers

Visitors to Washington State are using ExperienceWA.com more and more as the go-to travel resource for all things Washington. Traffic increased 26% in 2014, with more than 581,000 visitors and 1.7 million page views. These visits translated into over 154,000 referrals to our partners! So far there has been even more growth in 2015 with 173,000 visits to the site in January-March alone. During the month of April, the website had over 60,000 unique visitors, up 36% from last year.

Since the introduction of free basic listings for any tourism related business, more than 11,000 entities including hotels, restaurants and attractions have been listed. If your business or destination hasn’t yet been listed, please email experienceWAdata@milespartnership.com to create your listing. If you are interested in other opportunities on the site, please click here to see our Media Kit or call Mike Moe at 425-444-0589 or email him at mike@watourismalliance.com.

 

WTA MEMBERS IN THE NEWS   

BLOEDEL RESERVE CLAIMS BEST LAWN IN AMERICA TITLE

WALLA WALLA SELECTED AS HOST DESTINATION FOR 2016 TRAVEL AND WORDS NORTHWEST TRAVEL WRITERS CONFERENCE

FROLIK KITCHEN + COCKTAILS NAMED A TOP TEN HOTEL ROOFTOP BAR

TRI-CITIES REGION CELEBRATES WASHINGTON WINE

 

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 APRIL MEMBERS 

 

NEW MEMBERS:

 Doubletree – SeaTac, Hilton – SeaTac, SGTS USA

RENEWING MEMBERS:

Alaska Airlines, The Boeing Company, Clark County Public Facilities District, Coast Hotels & Resorts, Copacino & Fujikado, Crowne Plaza Hotel, Fairfield Inn, Food Services of America, Hotel Max, Mt Rainier Visitor Association, Museum of Flight, Okanogan County Tourism Council, Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau, Olympic Property Group, Quincy Valley Tourism, Seattle Bed and Breakfast Association, Seattle Seahawks, Skamania County Chamber of Commerce, Snohomish County Tourism Bureau, Squaxin Island Tribe Tourism Department, Three Rivers Convention Center, Travel Tacoma + Pierce County, Travelodge Seattle Center, Union Gap Tourism, Visit Spokane, Washington Indian Gaming Association, Washington State Fair

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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.