Executive Director Update – August 2012

Have you ever been involved in a project, task, or challenge that at times seemed insurmountable? Have you had days when you’ve asked yourself, “Did I accomplish anything today?”   And then, just when you are about to hit the wall, you have a breakthrough. If so, you know the feeling of being re-energized and positive and ready to take on the world all over again. To be honest, I have had those days, but I’ve seen and felt that breakthrough recently, and it feels great!

So what was my breakthrough? It was receiving recognition, and noticing awareness, of the WTA. It is such a great feeling when a potential investor tells us they know all about the WTA, can’t believe this has happened in our state, and appreciate the work we have done. And to hear legislators, who are aware of the current state, tell us statistics about the impact of the loss of tourism to our economic development. Better yet, to have out-of-state media calling us to say “We heard about what the WTA is doing in Washington, and we are impressed. Can you tell us more?” While funding is still a concern, I truly believe we have reached a milestone. Broad-based advocacy is critical to our success, and we are seeing our efforts make a difference in our state.

While I personally hate sports analogies, I feel compelled to share what I am thinking: We are like a Super Bowl competitor….we have a hell of a team, we are focused, we have a plan, and we are ready to execute.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful and sunny rest of the month. See you in September! (Isn’t there a song about that?)

-Suzanne Fletcher
Executive Director

MEMBER NEWS

I don’t need to tell anyone how important the upcoming state elections are to the future of tourism. Because of that, the WTA Board invited both candidates to present their perspectives on the current state of tourism in Washington. This month the Board had the opportunity to hear Democratic candidate, Jay Inslee, present and address questions posed by the Board. In September, Rob McKenna, the Republican candidate, will be presenting. I will include those discussions in next month’s newsletter so you can see where the candidates stand and how they plan to support the WTA moving forward.

Now is the time to reserve your space in the Official 2013 Washington State Visitors’ Guide and receive special WTA member pricing – just one more benefit of your WTA membership.

 Thanks to our combined efforts of the three-way partnership with the Washington Lodging Association and SagaCity Media, circulation for the Visitors’ Guide has grown to 375,000 and readership to nearly one million prospective travelers. Our aggressive distribution plan continues to get copies into the hands of visitors at over 2,200 visitor locations in nine states and in British Columbia and at Barnes & Noble, QFC, Whole Foods and other quality stores in Washington and Oregon. The 2013 Visitors’ Guide will also reach 65,000 subscribers of Seattle Met and Portland Monthly magazines when it is mailed along with their April issues.

And we continue to expand our program with major Washington companies, using the Official Washington State Visitors’ Guide as a recruitment tool for new hires. As WTA’s official tourism publication, the Visitors’ Guide is prominently featured on experiencewa.com where travelers can view it online or order their own copy. Readers can also download the Guide to their iPad or other tablet devices and smartphones.

Now is the time to reserve your space, invest in Washington tourism, and bring visitors to your door. Contact Jeff Adams at SagaCity Media for more information and to reserve your space. (jadams@sagacitymedia.com or call 206-454-3007)

Recently I was made aware of an impressive effort by our friends out in the San Juan Islands that I wanted to share.  The San Juan Islands are an integral part of tourism to this state, and a real gem to share. (They were recognized as the #2 NY Times world list and Travel & Leisure’s “Top 10 Islands-Continental US & Canada) They are taking on a monumental task and are asking for support.

The San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau invites all tourism partners to help support the designation of 955 acres of unspoiled, government-owned land in the San Juan Islands as a National Monument. The Monument would preserve scenic views, flora and fauna, history, culture and beloved recreation areas. These lands include iconic lighthouses, tiny bays, rocky promontories and Patos Island. Their Visitors Bureau is committed to local input into the management of these lands, particularly in the area of visitor education. The Islands belong to everyone and are a magnetic for tourists to Washington State. To help us preserve these unspoiled jewels go to San Juan Islands National Conservation Area for more information and for tips on letter writing. You may also directly link to email the President from there website.

COMMITTEE REPORTS

Marketing Committee 

The marketing committee has been tracking the activity of the Web site committee closely and is very excited about the progress being made toward a new site.

They are monitoring the success we have had with our new co-op ad campaign and the conversion rate of the display ads placed. The committee is eager to see another surge in clicks to the co-op application page. One thing to note in regard to the clicks is that this figure only represents clicks expressly driven from the advertisements. The organic traffic of the Facebook page and the sharing inherent to social media has and will continue to drive additional traffic to the co-op application.

Chris Murphy and George Sharp (co-chairs) extended the opportunity for one of the committee members to become co-chair of the social media sub-committee. Jennifer Johnson with the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad graciously volunteered. If you are interested in contributing to the WTA’s social media efforts, please email Chris (ChrisM@Seabrookwa.com) or Jennifer (sales@mrsr.org).

Finally, the committee chairs reviewed the next steps for the strategic marketing plan. After a meeting last month with Green Rubino, the PR firm hired previously by the state, the committee chairs explained the current state of the Experience WA brand and expressed that over the next few weeks the chairs will meet with Green Rubino again to craft a presentation for the marketing committee. The goal of the presentation is to review the steps taken in developing the Experience WA & Washington the State logos and to set forth the previously recommended next steps for the brand strategy created by Green Rubino for the Washington State Tourism Office. Looking forward, the marketing committee’s intent is to gather as much information as possible and create a presentation for the WTA board with a recommendation for the further development of the Experience WA brand, and an explanation on how the marketing committee recommends the more developed brand will play a large role in the strategic marketing strategy.

Website Task Force  

The Website Task Force received 8 proposals for a new website and interviewed 4 potential website partners.  We have now identified a website partner, and are currently discussing details of a business partnership.  We see some exciting changes coming to ExperienceWa.com, so stay tuned for an update and timeline.

PR Committee

I had the privilege of being interviewed by Jake Wittenberg, a reporter with King 5 TV, on WTA’s success and challenges one year after the state tourism office closed. The story was run on their morning show on August 8th.

We also had a great story in the Seattle Business Magazine in August called “Off the Map”, written by Isolde Raftery, after she attended the April Summit.   In addition, a tourism story featuring WTA is underway in the Puget Sound Business Journal’s special hospitality section and will be issued in late August. The story will feature WTA success stories, long-term funding challenges and opportunities, and more.

WTA social media channels:

The committee is staffing both Facebook and Twitter. Our dedicated members take shifts in posting/tweeting. With the transition complete, emphasis is now on building fans/followers, which in turn will help WTA establish industry, member, business and political support.

As far as our video/photo library, the committee continues to work in tandem with other WTA committees to make the library more accessible for client and industry use. Progress continues on development of a much-needed storage system that is separate from experiencewa.com. Solutions may include an FTP site, cloud option or others.

Long Term Funding and Advocacy Committee

It’s been a very busy month for the Long Term Funding/Advocacy Committee (LTFA). With the help of Becky Bogard and Kathryn Hedrick, six regional meetings have already been held through out the state to discuss our ideas and concepts for the funding model moving forward. The feedback and support has been very positive and has prepared us for our next steps. Printed pieces related to advocacy and explaining funding were distributed to participants at these regional meetings

Since those meetings, the LTF+A Committee has continued to meet and discuss results from regional meetings, advocacy process, and new concepts for a true funding model.

We have also discussed issues related to bridge funding, governmental involvement, and practical expectations of 2013 legislation. Because of timing issues with enacting and implementing any legislation, we believe we will need some bridge funding to keep some projects alive.  This might include funding for tourism research such as the Dean Runyan study as well as funds to get a new website up and running.

Membership Committee

Throughout the summer, the membership committee has been working hard to bring in more members and increase awareness of the WTA. The Level Up! campaign has been extended through the end of September, so bring in a new member to the WTA this summer and receive an upgrade to your membership! The committee has also assigned each WTA member a representative from the Board of Directors. Your board rep will be from your region or from your sector.  In the coming months, the membership committee will be contacting all current members to do a “checking in” and also informing you of your Board representative. If you have any questions, please contact our Business Development Manager, Mike Moe at mike@watourismalliance.com.

The committee is also discussing the possibility of creating a WTA discount program for members offering members discounts at other member’s establishments. We want to continue adding value to your membership. More to come on this!

Events Committee

In order to increase interest among potential bidders on Bidding For Good, the online auction’s structure will be changing. We are evaluating frequency, quantity of items, and types of items, always focusing on how we are showcasing our members and their regions.. The committee is now tracking activity and statistics through Google Analytics to get a better understanding of our buyer’s habits.

SAVE THE DATE !

The committee is actively working on a very cool event for Saturday evening, October 20th and we wanted to make sure you got it on the calendar. While we hate to sound coy, we are not quite ready to share all the details, but we can tempt you by telling you it will include a great venue, superb Washington wines, and phenomenal food! So did we catch your interest? The Events Committee will be announcing details very soon.

WELCOME NEW MEMBERS

We want to welcome our recent new members: Palace Hotel, Holiday Inn Express Bellingham, Chambers Bay Golf Course, Hotel 1000, Fairfield Inn and Suites Puyallup, Amtrak, Media West Advertising Sales, Harbor Inn Edmonds, Wolf Haven International, Port Districts of Mason County, Chrysalis Inn and Spa, Snoqualmie Tribe, Anacortes Chamber of Commerce, Sheraton Bellevue, Omni Risk Management, WA State Wine Commission, Lynnwood PFD Convention Center, Hotel Bellevue, and the Holiday Inns and Holiday Inns Express  of Yakima and Ellensburg. Thank you for joining the WTA, and for becoming a part in the future of Washington Tourism.