WHEN THE STATE tourism office closed in June 2011, the funds to market Washington to potential visitors disappeared, leaving us as the only state in the nation without a tourism marketing program.
Although travel and tourism spending has grown nationally, Washington has been steadily losing market share.
Why does this matter to you?
You might wonder, especially if your job or business isn’t tourism-related or if you’re retired.
It’s because tourism means business for all of us who live and work on the Olympic Peninsula.
When out-of-state travelers come to the Peninsula and spends money on a hotel or lunch or to rent kayaks or bicycles, not only do they support that business but they support each of us through the sales taxes they pay.
We import tax dollars by attracting tourists.
Here are a few interesting statistics:
■ In 2013, in Clallam County alone, visitor spending generated $15.4 million in state and local tax receipts, and supported more than 3,200 jobs.
■ In Jefferson County, visitor spending in 2013 generated $8.3 million in state and local tax receipts, and supported nearly 1,400 jobs.
■ Last year, more than 3.4 million recreation visitors came to Olympic National Park — and we want them to keep coming, since we know that they’ll also spend money on hotels, dining, shopping, tours, transportation and other businesses.
■ The tax revenue generated by tourism spending saves each Washington household $400 annually in taxes we would otherwise have to cover.
In Oregon, due to its robust tourism marketing efforts, $1,000 is generated for each Oregon household.
The tax-saving potential for Washington residents could easily grow with restoration of our own statewide tourism marketing program.
Over the past four years, the Washington Tourism Alliance — WTA, a tourism industry coalition — has been working to develop a plan for an industry-funded statewide marketing program.
Recent legislation (HB 1938/SB 5916) has been introduced that will provide a creative, collaborative industry-supported solution.
With this legislation, WTA is making a final push toward re-establishing a robust statewide tourism marketing program.
Washington tourism industry businesses will support the new nonprofit, private tourism effort.
All the funding will be generated by the tourism industry itself through assessments and voluntary contributions.
This plan requires no investment of state general funds.
HB 1938/SB 5916 makes good business sense and is supported by our Peninsula’s three representatives in the state Legislature — Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim; Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Sequim; and Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam.
This legislation provides the means for an industry-led, industry-funded statewide tourism marketing program.
This is what statewide marketing does.
It inspires, informs and helps build demand.
But effective marketing requires a long-term vision and a solid, reliable budget.
Washington’s tourism industry is ready to take this significant, crucial next step and to reinvest in itself.
In doing so, we’re confident that visitor spending will increase.
Jobs will grow.
Tax revenues will increase.
This bodes well for you and all of our communities on the Peninsula.
This guest column appeared in the Feb. 15 Sunday edition of the Peninsula Daily News.
Christina Pivarnik is director of marketing (contracted) for the city of Port Townsend and Olympic Peninsula representative on the WTA board of directors.
Marsha Massey is interim executive director for the Port Angeles-based Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau. Massey is the former director of the Washington State Tourism Office.