Mike Moe, Managing Director
In November, the Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA), along with the Department of Commerce (Commerce), entered into an agreement with GreenRubino to create a marketing plan for tourism in Washington State. After six years of hard work by our board of directors, staff, and volunteers all over the state, we are very excited to take this next step in our mission to finally reestablish a statewide tourism marketing effort. In the 2018 legislative session, we will still count on you, our partners and industry stakeholders, to spread the message and support the WTA, but we will have a new story to tell and a new vision to share.
Last summer, the legislature passed an operating budget that included a proviso with funding to build the marketing plan. The bill allocated the dollars to Commerce “solely for the department to formulate a statewide tourism marketing plan in collaboration with a nonprofit statewide tourism organization as provided in Substitute Senate Bill No. 5251.” The WTA worked with Commerce to draft an RFP that was dispersed in early October. There were eleven responses to the RFP, which were graded in accordance with strict state standards by a committee comprised of WTA board members and Commerce staff. The proposal from GreenRubino was the successful bid.
Before the ink was dry on the contract, GreenRubino hit the ground running. They met with the WTA and WSDMO boards to hear feedback and are already in the process of conducting several surveys to assess the current state of the tourism industry in Washington. The goal of this process isn’t to come up with a new brand or a catchy slogan, but to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the industry in our state and to fully understand how a statewide organization can best work with existing regional destination marketing organizations, local associations, government entities, and most importantly tourism-related businesses. We’re developing a road map, so our statewide tourism marketing organization will know exactly where to go when the legislature passes our bill in 2018.
2017 Elections. The results of the November 2017 elections brought a shift of power to the Washington State Legislature. With the decisive win of now Sen. Manka Dhingra, the Democrat running to replace the late Sen. Andy Hill, control of the Senate shifted to the Democrats. Now the Senate, the House and the governor’s office are controlled by one party, the Democrats.
In the Senate, this means that all the committee chairs have changed. Sen. Christine Rolfes (D., Bainbridge Island) is now chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, the budget writing committee. Sen. Rolfes is very familiar with tourism; she served on the interim work group in 2016 that crafted the legislation intended to establish and fund a new statewide tourism marketing program. Sen. Maralyn Chase (D., Shoreline) is chair of the Economic Development and Trade Committee, the substantive committee that oversees tourism issues. Sen. Chase was a co-sponsor of SB 5251, the legislation that grew out of the 2016 working group.
However, tourism is not really a partisan issue. We have support for the WTA legislation from both sides of the aisle. Key members like Sen. Sharon Brown (R., Richland) and Sen. Judy Warnick (R., Moses Lake) will still be critical to the success of our efforts. Similarly, in the House, Rep. Cary Condotta (R., Chelan), Rep. Andrew Barkis (R., Olympia) and Rep. Gina McCabe (R., Goldendale) will continue to be important in securing support in the House. House Democrat members who have been critical to our success include Rep. Cindy Ryu (D., Shoreline), Rep. Gael Tarleton (D., Seattle) and Rep. Nicole Macri (D., Seattle).
Status of Tourism Legislation. Both HB 1123 and SB 5251 are still alive. The “life” of a bill is two legislative sessions. Since this proposal was introduced in the 2017 legislature, it is alive for the 2018 legislature.
In the House, SHB 1123 remains in the House Appropriations Committee. The legislation had a hearing, but the committee did not take action before the legislature adjourned last July. In the Senate, 2SSB 5251 is in the Senate Rules Committee. It passed out of both the Senate Economic Development and Trade Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee. As the session was adjourning, WTA was working with sponsors to try to get some agreed to language about funding.
Marketing Plan. In the meantime, the legislature did approve $500,000 in the 2017-19 biennial budget for the Department of Commerce (Commerce) to work with WTA to put together a draft statewide tourism marketing plan as required in 2SSB5251. Although the latter legislation did not pass, Commerce has worked with WTA to ensure that the marketing plan follows the substance of 2SSB 5251. Please see Managing Director Mike Moe’s article for more details about the work on the marketing plan.
It is anticipated that the statewide tourism marketing plan will be in a form that can be used to show legislators the benefits of passing legislation that will enable the plan to be implemented.
Going Forward in the 2018 Session. WTA is currently working with lead legislators to get an agreement on language for 2SSB 5251 and SHB 1123, particularly regarding state funding and the match. Additionally, there are technical amendments which must be made to update the bill. Most of these relate to dates which are deadlines for certain things to occur. WTA is also working with key members of the fiscal committees, particularly the Senate Ways and Means Committee, to get funding for the second year of the biennium in the supplemental budget.
In summary, WTA has two “asks” for this session. First, we want the bill providing the mechanism for tourism funding passed and signed by Governor Inslee. (This is either SHB 1123 or 2SSB 5251.) Second, we need funding in the supplemental operating budget so that the implementation of the marketing plan can move forward.
Please come to Olympia on January 29-30 to meet with your legislators to ensure they will support our requests!
Diana Thibado, Director of Operations
RSVP now for the 2018 Washington Tourism Rally! Our annual event takes on a new look as we celebrate the successes of the past year and meet with legislators to build on the progress made during the last legislative session. There is no cost to attend this rally, but we need to get your RSVP by December 22nd so we can secure appointments with your legislators.
The rally will kick off with a reception hosted by the Washington Hospitality Association at the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia on the evening of January 29th, 2018. The next morning, January 30th, we will gather at the United Churches of Olympia for a legislative briefing, and review talking points and handouts for your legislative meetings. A formal schedule of the day and other information will be circulated in early January.
Hotel block information will be available soon. Please click here to RSVP by December 22nd to ensure you get the most up to date information about the rally.
Mike Moe, Managing Director
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This deal is only good if booked in December, so contact Mike Moe at mike@watourismalliance or call him at 425-444-0589 today!
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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 email@example.com.