Mount Vernon, WA – Destination marketing organizations continue to work in tandem with the Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) in the wake of the Skagit River I-5 bridge collapse to insure that travelers keep on traveling during the traditionally busy summer auto travel season.
“This was the perfect storm – right before the Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial start to the summer travel season,” said Louise Stanton-Masten, WTA Executive Director. “We went right to work with our statewide network of tourism professionals, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), the state Department of Commerce and Governor Inslee’s office. We immediately agreed to proactively communicate that Mount Vernon, the San Juan Islands, Whidbey and Camano Islands, Bellingham and others in Northwestern Washington State remain open for business and that alternate routes were available.”
The WTA posted travel advisories on its consumer travel web site, www.experiencewa.com, and linked to the web sites of affected destination marketing organizations which, in turn, conveyed critical travel bulletins and real-time tips for the general public to let them know that business and detour routes were open.
“Our community has come together and is focusing on the clean up and repair of the bridge as well as keeping traffic moving,” said Kristen Keltz, President/CEO of the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce in a message to constituents. “There are alternate routes set up throughout our communities. WSDOT has been amazing at making adjustments wherever needed to ensure the least amount of back up. We will be starting a campaign today and through the weekend with the message Skagit County is ‘worth the trip.’ This is a major economic arterial that will affect our entire state! We appreciate all the support we have received so far.”
Additionally, the WTA’s newly released travel app, VisitWA, is proving popular as real-time tool for travelers, highlighting I-5 information, location maps, scenic detours such as Deception Pass and Whidbey Island and providing visitor information anytime, anywhere in the state. Using GPS functions, the app locates the visitor/user, and then displays nearby local information. The WTA app also features free and affordable travel diversions along the way.
The WTA current has a request before the state legislature for short-term funding to underwrite the basics of a marketing program in 2014 and 2015 which would include the state’s consumer travel web site, postage for mailing the Washington State Visitors’ Guide, operation of a travel call center, research and international marketing. Governor Inslee’s Working Washington Agenda references the importance of re-engaging tourism – the state’s fourth largest export industry according to Gross Domestic Product – following the closure of the state tourism office nearly two years ago.
The Skagit bridge collapse underscored the state and national need for better investment in modern transportation infrastructure to capitalize on economic growth, more jobs, new tax revenue and a more positive balance of trade. A critical transportation package is currently being discussed in the state legislature’s special session in Olympia and at the national level, the U.S. Transportation Association continues its ongoing lobby to modernize the air traffic control system, increase capacity and improve access at the nation’s airports, and boost funding for national parks.Travel Resources and Advisories Washington Tourism Alliance: www.experiencewa.com For community web sites, the mobile travel app and other travel resources Tourism advocacy and press releases from impacted communities: www.whytourismmatters.com Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce: www.visitskagitcounty.com Updated information from various tourism and other businesses throughout Skagit County Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT): wsdot.wa.gov/construction/pugetsound/today.htm For official route information and status updates Amtrak: www.AmtrakCascades.com Starting today, Amtrak Cascades will add a third daily round trip train between Seattle and Bellingham. This is a temporary addition to service to facilitate travelers. About the Washington Tourism Alliance The Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) is a 501[c]6 organization established by industry stakeholders with the sole mission of sustaining Washington State destination tourism marketing. The WTA procures and administers funds for state destination tourism marketing activities and creates and implements a strategic statewide destination marketing plan. www.watourismalliance.com. Tourism is Washington State’s fourth largest industry. The state saw some 36.4 million total overnight person trips in 2012, and those visitors spent $16.9 billion and stimulated local and state tax receipts of more than $1 billion – the equivalent of $390 for every resident household in Washington State. Travel and tourism supported more than 153,300 jobs and earnings (payroll) of $4.7 billion.