WTA Newsletter – January 2016


EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR UPDATE
Louise Stanton-Masten

2015 – The year in review. In 2015 the WTA continued efforts to secure legislation which will provide sustainable, long-term funding for tourism promotion. At the same time we were focused on providing essential services to promote and expand travel to Washington State. Here’s a look at the year in numbers:

375,000 copies of the 2015 Washington State Visitors’ Guide were published in March. Produced in partnership with the Washington Lodging Association and SagaCityMedia, the Guide has a circulation of 375,000 and a readership of nearly one million prospective travelers. The print guide is linked to www.experiencewa.com, was available at 2,000 visitor centers in Washington, seven other western states and British Columbia, and was mailed to 65,000 subscribers of Seattle Met and Portland Monthly magazine. Prospective travelers were also able to order individual copies of the Guide through the website.

$250,000 in short-term funding from the Washington State Legislature was spent on several specific programs which supported our efforts to maintain and grow tourism in Washington State. This was the remaining six months of interim funding provided by the State for the 2013/15 biennium, which had totaled $1 million. Monies were spent to support and enhance the visitor website, www.experiencewa.com, for postage to mail the Washington State Visitors’ Guide to travelers who requested it, for the operation of a call center, to enhance international tourism marketing with our partners at the Port of Seattle and Visit Seattle and to fund annual tourism research.

152,731 partner referrals on www.experiencewa.com, WTA’s official travel and tourism website for the state of Washington. Additionally, there were over 639,000 unique visitors to the site in 2015 and almost 1.9 million page views.

2,500 calls were answered by the WTA call center 1-800 number for the first six months of 2015, providing travel information to prospective visitors.

212 companies and organizations renewed their membership investment in the WTA; and 14 new members joined the WTA.

150 WTA members and industry stakeholders attended the 5th Annual Tourism Summit and Day in Olympia in February.

150 media inquiries were addressed throughout the year. The WTA communications committee and our DMO partners responded to these inquiries and provided great stories to the media.

12 monthly eNewsletters were sent through our visitor website, www.experiencewa.com to almost 20,000 subscribers.

11 monthly WTA industry E-Newsletters, were sent to 5,216 members and industry stakeholders each month.

3 travel industry trade shows attended. Tourism industry partners and WTA members met with international and national tour operators at the NTA (National Tour Association) Travel Exchange in New Orleans in January, the International Tourism Marketing Go West Summit in Colorado in February, and the U.S. Travel Association’s 47th annual IPW (formerly known as Pow Wow) international marketplace in May in Orlando.

Stay tuned for an important year ahead in 2016. We invite you to continue to partner with the WTA and support our efforts to obtain long-term, industry-led funding which will provide the dollars necessary to adequately support future tourism marketing programs.
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: SHORT SESSION REQUIRES LONG-TERM PLANNING
Becky Bogard

The 2016 legislative session, which began on January 11, is a “short” session; it will end on March 10. To comply with court decisions, the legislators have to consider matters relating to school funding, charter schools and mental health. As a result, there are many proposals for significant programs, including tourism, which are lining up for consideration in the longer 2017 session.

We are increasingly encouraged by our dialogue with legislators who express support for the tourism industry, willing to address funding issues and work together with us for a long-term solution.

The WTA proposal, embodied in 2SSB 5916 is still very much alive and the WTA is continuing to advocate for the bill. In addition, last week, Rep. Cary Condotta (R., Chelan) introduced HB 2552, a bill providing an alternative way to fund a statewide tourism marketing program. While this proposal has many of the same characteristics of the WTA proposal, particularly in the area of governance, it has a different funding mechanism. HB 2552 proposes a B&O tax credit for voluntary contributions made to the state tourism marketing fund. While WTA applauds Rep. Condotta for coming forward with a different funding structure, we believe that more discussion of the details are necessary. Whether these can occur before the end of the legislative session is uncertain.
As a result, WTA is asking for the supplemental budget to include some interim funding for three specific activities – WTA website enhancement, postage for sending out the Washington State Visitors’ Guide, and participation in Brand USA, the national organization that markets the United States to tourists from the rest of the world. The total amount of the request for interim funding is $400,000. This interim funding is essential to maintaining our baseline visitor fulfillment while we work with legislators and the industry on the longer-term funding plan.

So what do we need you to do now?
WTA needs you to call your legislators and ask them to tell their budget negotiators to include $400,000 for interim funding for the three activities noted above. The key budget negotiators are as follows:

Senate
Andy Hill, chair, Ways and Means
John Braun, vice chair, Ways and Means
Mark Schoesler
Jim Hargrove
Sharon Nelson

House
Hans Dunshee , chair, Appropriations
Pat Sullivan
Frank Chopp
Bruce Chandler
Dan Kristiansen

We will continue to apprise you of the status of the proposal for interim funding as well as the progress of the long term funding proposals.
How are we going to get agreement on a program for adequate and stable state tourism marketing funding?

Because of the different funding proposals, there are clearly legislators thinking about ways to address the issue. Just this week, over 200 representatives of the Washington Lodging Association and Washington Restaurant Association met with their legislators and found great support for finding a long term funding solution. WTA will capitalize on this support and bring legislators, tourism industry members and others together to develop a proposal that will offer stable, reliable long term funding for the state’s tourism industry. With legislative involvement comes ownership on the part of the legislators who participate and thus an interest in getting something accomplished. These legislators will become our champions with their colleagues. We believe this will position us well with the other proposals that may come before the 2017 legislature.

The WTA Board knows that this has been a long road for our members and stakeholders. It is important to keep in mind that when other states have made changes in the way they fund tourism marketing it has taken at least five years and those changes have come in good economic times. We still have time to show that we can get it done sooner than other states! The WTA board, staff and consultants thank you for your active support and look forward to continuing to work with you until we accomplish our goals. And we will accomplish those goals!

 

LAST CHANCE TO RESERVE YOUR AD IN THE OFFICIAL 2016 WASHINGTON STATE VISTORS’ GUIDE – Just 2 weeks remaining!
Jeff Adams, SagaCity Media
 
Our Washington State Visitors’ Guide team is putting the finishing touches on the 2016 annual edition. Make sure your business is in front of over 1,000,000 prospective visitors looking for information on where to stay, eat and play in Washington State. Don’t miss out on this proven marketing opportunity!
To place your ad and to take advantage of discounted pricing exclusively for WTA members, contact Jeff Adams at SagaCity Media (jadams@sagacitymedia.com or 206-454-3007).

 

TOURISM CARES VOLUNTEER SUMMIT 
Tourism Cares, the travel industry nonprofit with a mission to preserve and enhance the travel experience for future generations, is launching a new request for proposal process to select the destination to be highlighted at its 2017 volunteer summit.  First proposals from interested destinations in North America are due by February 29, 2016. Please click here for more information.

 

VISIT WALLA WALLA LAUNCHES ROBUST NEW ONLINE EVENT CALENDAR
Visitors searching for things to do in the Walla Walla Valley should look no further than the completely redesigned online events calendar at visitwallawalla.com. Comprehensive and easy to navigate, the calendar of events is searchable by date, location and event type, and includes locator maps as well as images. The calendar can be accessed by clicking on the Calendar of Events tab at www.visitwallawalla.com, or directly at http://calendar.visitwallawalla.com/.
“With so many different, unofficial Walla Walla events calendars out there, we felt it was important to have a comprehensive list of event information all in one convenient location,” said Ron Peck, executive director of Visit Walla Walla. “The calendar was designed to be simple yet thorough, intuitive and easy to navigate, making it easier than ever to browse all there is to see and do in the Walla Walla Valley.”
Additionally, users now have the ability to invite their friends to view or attend an event through the calendar’s social media sharing capabilities, and can see others who are planning to attend as well.

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CONNECT TO PEOPLE PLANNING A TRIP TO WASHINGTON ON EXPERIENCEWA IN 2016
Mike Moe
2015 was outstanding for the advertisers onExperienceWA.com. The official tourism website for Washington is the best place to connect with people who are planning their trip to our state.  As your business or destination plans for 2016, we would like to share some highlights from the past year.
In the beginning of 2015, we initiated the REWARDS Program for our banner ad platform and it has been extremely successful. Our advertisers are only paying an average of just over $2.00 per click. That is WAY below industry standard. The fact that ExperienceWA website visitors are there specifically to learn about travelling in Washington State only make these clicks more valuable.
Our monthly eNewsletter program has also been big in 2015. As you know, there are limited spaces available to advertise in our eNewsletter and the ad spaces for 2016 are already filling up! If you want advertising space in our eNewsletter next year, let us know as soon as possible.

The custom eNewsletters have also been extremely popular. This last year they have had average cost-per-click of $1.86.An outstanding value!

The Custom eNewsletters in 2016 are going fast, so if you have specific months you want to target, make sure to reserve your space soon.
Finally, our most successful program to date has been our Custom Content Creation. Our editors will work with you to write an article about your destination or property. You will get 100% approval throughout the process. Your article will live on ExperienceWA for a full year with an option to renew, and even better, you get to keep the article for your own website forever! One advertiser put an article up in December of 2014 and so far it has had over 13,000 page views and it has generated more than 9,000 clicks to their website.

 

There are so many different ways to reach the qualified audience of ExperienceWA.com. To learn more, please contact Mike Moe at mike@watourismalliance.com or call him at 425-444-0589. Or, click to view the full ExperienceWA Media Kit.

 

SUBMIT YOUR STORIES

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.

 

WTA WELCOMES DECEMBER MEMBERS 

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 atmike@watourismalliance.com or join today online here.