October 2014 Newsletter

Louise Stanton-Masten  

This month the WTA has undertaken an extensive regional outreach program, designed to provide information to our members and tourism partners about our long-term funding plan and proposed 2015 legislation. As you know, the WTA has been focused for the past year on refining our funding model which will provide the resources needed for tourism marketing and promotion for the state. Legislation passed in 2014 directed the WTA to deliver a report to the legislature which addresses industry assessments, collection and governance. More information about the report can be found in “A Program Taking Shape” in this newsletter.

Our Long Term Funding Committee has developed and refined these recommendations over the past several years, in large part due to the input that we have received from our members and industry stakeholders. This year our Marketing Committee is preparing the framework of a marketing plan for tourism promotion using the funds anticipated from the industry assessments. Please provide your input by completing this survey by December 10. Thank you for your interest in helping to shape the future of Washington state tourism.

Regional meetings are being held throughout the state this month and next, co-hosted by local Destination Marketing Organizations. Additionally, WTA representatives are meeting with other tourism partners, trade associations, Rotary clubs and other interested organizations. These meetings are your opportunity to be involved in the conversation, to learn about our proposed legislation, to provide input and to help guide decisions that the WTA Board of Directors will be making in the coming months. Thanks to DMO’s in Long Beach, Olympia and Snohomish County for already hosting meetings this month. The following meetings are scheduled in November and we expect others to be added. We encourage you to join us at one of these meetings. Please check the WTA website for an updated list with specific times and locations. If you have any questions, please contact the WTA or your local DMO host.

November 6; Whidbey and Camano Island Tourism; Coupeville

November 6; San Juan Islands Visitor Bureau; Friday Harbor

November 10; Central Washington Regional Meeting; Wenatchee

November 11; Washington Lodging Association; Blaine

November 13; Yakima Valley Tourism; Yakima

November 13; Olympic Peninsula Tourism Bureau; Sequim

November 13; Walla Walla Rotary; Walla Walla

November 14; Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau; Tri-Cities

December 2; Visit Spokane; Spokane


Becky Bogard   

After many months of research and talking with WTA members, the WTA is preparing to submit a report to the state legislature on December 1, 2014. Under legislation passed earlier in 2014, the WTA is directed to report back to the legislature on a plan to fund a statewide tourism marketing program. The contents of that report have been under consideration by the WTA Long Term Funding committee for several months and will be considered by the WTA board at its meeting the end of October.

The proposed program follows many of the principles that were initially established by the Long Term Funding Committee. It will be industry funded and governed. The funds collected will be protected to the maximum extent possible and there will be accountability for expenditure of the funds.

As consideration of the proposal progressed, the committee felt that following the model of the electronics recycling law was the best way to proceed. Under that law, the electronics industry funds the recycling program but the fees are collected by the state. While the funds are public, they are governed by an industry dominated authority that contracts out for operation of the recycling program.

One of the major reasons for following this example is the manner in which funds for the program would be collected. It is critical that the funds for the program be collected by the state. The alternative would be for the WTA, as a private entity, to collect funds for the program. The WTA does not have the resources to collect from the more than 15,000 businesses in the tourism industry. Further, if a business did not want to pay, the WTA does not have enforcement authority and thus could not provide a reliable source of funds for marketing. As a result, finding a collection system within state government seemed critical.

For four of the five industry sectors, the WTA will propose to use the Secretary of State’s annual corporate reporting system. Currently this is a one-time filing for all profit and non-profit corporations. The WTA will propose that this system be used to collect the assessments in the following sectors: food service, attractions, transportation and retail. The annual, one-time assessments will be at a level that has been discussed over the past year, ranging from $100 to a high of $3500. For lodging, which is proposed to be assessed at $.15 per room night, the current system of collecting lodging taxes through the Department of Revenue would be used.

So then the questions become where do these funds go, who administers them and how are they protected? First, because the funds are collected by state government they would be deposited into a non-appropriated account in the state treasury.

Second, they would be administered by a new entity, the Washington Tourism Marketing Authority (WTMA). The WTMA would be composed of representatives from the assessed sectors, the Secretary of State and the Director of the Department of Revenue. The latter two are included because they are the “collectors” of the fund. The industry representatives would be appointed by these two state officials from nominees provided by the industry.

The WTMA would have only two tasks. First, it would contract with a statewide non-profit organization whose sole purpose is to provide statewide marketing services, such as the WTA. Second, it would be responsible for conducting research about the growth of tourism in the state, much like the current Dean Runyon study. The purpose of the WTMA is NOT to conduct the marketing program but rather to contract out for it. Its expenditures would be capped by statute.

The final critical question is how the funds are protected from being swept by the legislature to fund other programs. The fund would be a non-appropriated fund, much like the agricultural commodity commission’s fund. It would be a working fund; in other words, funds would go out (to the contractor) as fast as they are accumulated, so there would never be much of a balance. Finally, there is statutory precedent for strong protections of such a fund and those protections would be incorporated in the proposed statute to implement this program.

Some have been concerned about how non-assessed tourism entities could participate in the statewide marketing program. Under the proposed model, these businesses would contribute directly to the WTA. For example, a Tribal entity could contribute directly to the program by making a contribution to the WTA.   The same would be true for port districts and other businesses that are not in the assessment matrix.

After approval by the WTA board, a more detailed analysis of the proposal will appear in this newsletter.

In closing, it is important to remember why the WTA is proposing this program. In the 2005-07, the state funding for tourism was $8.2 million; that’s $4.1 million annually. In 2009-11, the state appropriated $4.0 million for tourism; that’s $2.0 million annually. As we all know, the state ended any funding for this program in 2011 and Washington is now the only state without a statewide tourism marketing program. Think about what our competitor states spend in tourism marketing. In the face of the MCleary decision on public education and other demands on the state budget, it is imperative that the industry fund a program that will bring back significant tourism growth in this state.

Make plans to attend the WTA Tourism Summit and Day in Olympia February 12, 2015. The event will include a morning session at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts with presentations addressing statewide tourism topics followed by lunch, an afternoon at the Capitol for meetings with our legislators and a special evening reception at the Governor’s Mansion. Our legislative advocacy will be focused on WTA legislation for long-term funding for statewide tourism marketing.

Hotel rooms are available at the Red Lion Hotel, Olympia for Wednesday, February 11 and Thursday, February 12 at the WTA group rate of $104 single and double; $114 triple and $124 quad.
To make reservations contact the Red Lion at 1-800-RED-LION (1-800-733-5466) or the hotel directly at 360-252-4000 by Friday, January 16, 2015 and identify yourself as a member of the Washington Tourism Alliance group.
A list of sponsorship opportunities can be found here. For more information, please contact Mike Moe at (425) 444-0589 or mike@watourismalliance.com.
Christina Pivarnik, WTA Board of Directors; City of Port Townsend Director of Marketing
Byways Workshop

If someone says, “Road Trip!” does your heart race? Mine does. And my instant response is, “How soon can we leave?” That’s exactly how we want visitors to think and feel about touring Washington. Our Scenic Byways are that call to action, to hit the road and GO!

Road tripping and connecting the dots across our magnificent state were just a few of the topics discussed by 40+ representatives from the 29 Scenic Byways at a workshop held in Leavenworth, September 25 and 26, coordinated by Marcus Yearout and his team from ScenicWA.com.

Armed with smart phones, tablets and digital cameras, Thursday evening we were unleashed downtown to learn how easy it is to promote our destinations using Instagram and hashtags. We bonded over giggles, goofy expressions and the charm of the Bavarian setting.

Next morning, Andy Dumaine, from ShrinkingFootprint.com, launched the day with a session on reshaping our tourism marketing strategies and how to leverage small budgets to create authentic, incredible stories about our rural communities. He defined today’s road trippers as couples in their late twenties to mid-thirties and late forties to mid-fifties. They are people deeply committed to making the world a better place. Plug tourism efforts to these folks with LOCAL-food, talent, businesses.

Later, in breakout sessions, we delved deeper into topics on blogging with compelling content, social media, pitching stories to TV, improving photo assets, and defining our destination’s niche with high-value, genuine travel experiences.

 Marcus Yearout summed up the workshop saying, “Combining vision and resources to market the entire byway experience will benefit consumers as well as every single community on the route.”


City of SeaTac, Wash. (Oct. 15, 2014) – SeaTac City Council members voted last night to establish the Seattle Southside Tourism Promotion Area (TPA) and charter the Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority (SSRTA), a public corporation and separate legal entity which will manage increased funding and tourism promotion activities for the cities of Des Moines, SeaTac and Tukwila. The boundaries of the three cities make up the Tourism Promotion Area (TPA).

The City of SeaTac will serve as the designated legislative authority for the TPA following the prior approval of interlocal agreements with the city councils of Des Moines and Tukwila. The team from Seattle Southside Visitors Services, which was established in 2002, will transition to the newly created SSRTA.

“The region’s hospitality industry and our community will benefit greatly from the leadership of our City Council in taking this important step forward,” said SeaTac City Manager Todd Cutts. “We must also acknowledge and thank Katherine Kertzman and her team at Seattle Southside Visitors Services for their vision, dedication and collaboration during the process of creating the new Tourism Promotion Area.”

In 2013, Seattle Southside reported that for every dollar spent on tourism marketing there was a return on that investment of $14.26 from an increased number of visitors to the region. To date, the revenue to support such marketing efforts was collected from a lodging tax. The TPA allows for a significant increase of funds to support these programs.

“It is well documented that tourism drives local economies and no place is that more so than in Seattle Southside,” said Frank Welton, Area General Manager of Hilton Worldwide. “Our region’s collective 8,000 hotel rooms generate jobs, tax revenue and added vitality to the community. A greater investment in marketing our destination will have a very positive impact and I am grateful for the partnership of the hotels and the cities to make this a top priority.”

“Ever since Washington State eliminated the investment in tourism marketing, each region has needed to find ways to reach travelers and meeting planners on their own,” said Katherine Kertzman, Executive Director for Seattle Southside Visitor Services. “The cities of Des Moines, SeaTac and Tukwila are uniquely positioned with opportunities to attract leisure visitors and business travelers. Hoteliers and city leaders alike understand the significant financial benefit from a healthy tourism economy.”

A Board of Directors will be named before the end of 2014 and it will take several months for SSRTA to obtain its own legal, accounting and insurance services independent of the City.

“The City will have basic oversight of the PDA including the approval of an annual budget, confirmation of board members, review of financial reports and audits, and attendance at board meetings,” said Cutts. “The SSRTA will oversee expenditures, operations and marketing. We’ve always believed it is better to let the hospitality experts decide how best to invest the resources to generate the greatest return on investment.”



Spokane mobile

Spokane has a new member of the family! Our 3,336 pound baby has arrived and is ready to go!
The name is Ace, otherwise known as the Visit Spokane Mobile Visitor Information Center. And when we say “mobile” we mean it: ACE is a 2013 Ford Transit Connect that will hit the road to go where the visitors are.
Since Ace’s first assignment in June, the vehicle has made appearances at dozens of events.


“Wherever we go, we’re ready to give out all the best, latest information on things to do in our region,” says Melissa Skomer-Kafton, Visit Spokane’s new Visitor Engagement Specialist. Like a traditional visitor center housed in a building, Ace is stocked with maps, brochures, visitor guides and many other materials available for visitors and locals alike.
“Ace is the next step in our strategy to provide the best possible customer service for the visitor,” said Cheryl Kilday, Visit Spokane President & CEO. “We had our Visitor Information Center located downtown on West Main Avenue from 1996 until last year. Then we opened our Visitor Information Center Kiosk in River Park Square and now, with Ace, we’ll be able to go wherever visitors are located.”In July, Visit Spokane opened another Visitor Information Center Kiosk, this one located in the Spokane Valley Mall. The Visitor Information Center located inside the A-B Terminal at Spokane International Airport continues to serve visitors arriving by plane.Ace — a name designed to simply reflect the destination expertise available to the visitor — has been decorated with a very colorful graphic treatment, including a big smile on the hood, that will make it easy to spot.”Ace is hard to miss, and that’s the way it should be,” said Kilday.Follow Ace’s Twitter account @VisitSpokaneACE to find out where Ace will be next.
Mike Moe   
WTA partners have seen great success with their advertising investment on www.ExperienceWA.com and the monthly leisure eNewsletter program. The City of Lynnwood has many eyes on them, with over 1,000 views of their Custom Content page in just 2 months and Crystal Mountain had a 2.35% CTR (click through rate) on their banner advertising this summer.

Visit Rainier found success with their Custom Emails over the summer. Their July Coop Email had a 49% Open Rate, a 30% Click Through Rate (on Opens) so they paid only $0.65 per click!

This summer our co-op email campaign through Washington Tourism Alliance helped introduce thousands of visitors to VisitRainier.com. We were pleased to have the opportunity to tap into a targeted audience of Washington State fans who want to find more about Mt. Rainier National Park. With this program, we will continue to invite them to come back again and again.” -Mary Kay Nelson, Visit Rainier

If you are interested in learning more about these success stories and programs available please visit www.experienceWA.com/advertise or call Mike Moe directly at (425) 444-0589 or email him at mike@watourismalliance.com


Production is now underway on the 2015 Washington State Visitors’ Guide. With a readership of nearly one million prospective travelers seeking tips and information on where to stay, eat, and play in Washington, the 2015 Guide is a great marketing opportunity. For more information on advertising, with discounted pricing exclusively for WTA members, contact Jeff Adams at SagaCity Media (jadams@sagacitymedia.com or 206-454-3007).






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.




 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.