WTA Seeks Director of Marketing

The WTA is seeking qualified applicants for a new Director of Marketing position. Click here for the job description.

If you are interested and you meet the selection criteria please respond with a resume and cover letter and prior to 5 p.m., January 27, 2021. Applicants must be a Washington State resident or willing to relocate at their own expense. Send resume and cover letter to wtainfo@watourismalliance.com.

Register Today for the 2020 State Tourism Conference!

October 8th, 2020 8am-4pm 

Register now for the 2020 State Tourism Conference. This virtual event will bring together Washington State tourism industry members and feature a line-up of national, state, and local speakers and panelists in addition to industry breakout sessions. Program Highlights:

  • Welcome and State of the Industry
  • Travel & Tourism Industry and Forecast by Adam Sacks, the CEO of Tourism Economics
  • Panel discussion on the Future of Outdoor Based Tourism
  • Panel discussion on U.S.-Canada Cross-Border Tourism
  • Keynote Address by Roger Dow, The CEO and President of the US Travel Association
  • Panel discussion on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Implications and Opportunities for the Travel Industry
  • Panel discussion with Small Business Owners Who Have Successfully Adapted to Covid-19
  • Panel discussion on Planning for Industry Recovery with State Government and Industry Leaders
  • Opportunities to network with people in your sector and region

Click here to register! 

Cost: $25 for WTA members, $35 for non-members, and $8 for students. Click here for sponsorship opportunities. We look forward to reuniting as an industry in October!


The Washington Tourism Alliance invites you to save the date for the 2020 Washington State Tourism Conference, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., October 8, 2020.

This virtual conference represents the return of Washington’s state tourism conference, last held more than a decade ago.

The program will include:

  • State of the travel and tourism industry
  • The latest in travel and tourism research and recovery indicators
  • Panel discussions on the Future of Outdoor Tourism, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Adapting in an Age of Covid
  • Virtual lunch break to catch up with colleagues in your region
  • Virtual happy hour to network with colleagues in your sector

Registration, sponsorship opportunities, and program information is coming soon!

Walla Walla Named Wine Region of the Year by USA Today

August 21, 2020

WTA Media Contact:
Christina Pivarnik
(360) 531-0127

Walla Walla, Wash. – USA Today readers named Washington’s Walla Walla Valley as America’s Best Wine Region, announced today in the publication’s prestigious 2020 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards. This is the first first-place win for the Walla Walla Valley, though it has been selected as a finalist for the award three consecutive years.

 This this year’s finalists were narrowed from a field of 250 wine-growing regions to 20 finalists by a panel of wine industry experts before USA Today readers voted. Additionally, USA readers names Long Shadows Vintners as fourt-best tasting room for the second consecutive year.

The Walla Walla Valley, located in the state’s south east, is home to more than 120 wineries, a growing and nationally recognized culinary scene, a range of outdoor recreation and arts and entertainment attractions. The region, and the town of Walla Walla, are a four-hour drive from Seattle through some of Washington’s other noted wine regions. The Walla Walla Valley is also served by nonstop flights via Alaska Airlines. For more information on the Walla Walla Valley and its wines, visit www.wallawalla.org or www.wallawallawine.com.

In addition to the Walla Walla Valley’s first-place win in Best Wine Region category, Long Shadows Vintners took fourth place in the Best Tasting Room category for the second consecutive year.

“I can think of no better way to honor wines from Washington state in general, and Walla Walla Valley wines specifically, than being recognized as America’s Best Wine Region by a vote of the public,” said Robert Hansen, executive director of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance. “It’s a testament to the outstanding terroir, meticulous craftsmanship, and to the men and women who are committed to elevating the Walla Walla Valley from both a wine production and tourism perspective.”

A panel of five wine industry experts chose 20 finalists from a list of more than 250 American wine-growing regions. The public was then asked to vote daily for their favorite region between July 13 and Aug. 12.

“The Walla Walla Valley is no stranger to being recognized for the quality of its wines and the experience that awaits those who visit, including being recognized as America’s Best Wine Town in the 2018 Sunset Travel Awards,” said Visit Walla Walla board chair Tabitha Crenshaw. “Given today’s proliferation of American wines and wine regions, this is a particularly proud moment. It is truly special when the very people who purchase and enjoy your wines, and who choose to visit our incredible community, validate the quality and experience you are striving to achieve.”

For more information on the Walla Walla Valley and its wines, visit www.wallawalla.org or www.wallawallawine.com.

About Walla Walla:

As the unofficial capital of Washington wine country, Walla Walla is home to more than 120 wineries, a nationally recognized culinary scene, access to an abundance of outdoor recreation, and an arts & entertainment scene that rivals cities many times its size. This community of just over 30,000 residents is known for many things, including its friendliness and hospitality, the quality of its wine, and of course the famous Walla Walla Sweet Onion. An easy and scenic four-hour drive from Seattle, Portland, or Boise, Walla Walla can also be accessed via Alaska Airlines daily non-stop flights from Seattle. For more information and to begin planning a trip to Walla Walla, visit www.wallawalla.org.

About the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance:

The Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance is a nonprofit wine industry membership organization whose primary mission is to build an internationally acclaimed Walla Walla Valley wine brand among consumers, media, and trade by providing marketing programs on behalf of member wineries, vineyards, and partners.  The Wine Alliance functions as the leading informational resource for consumers, media, and trade interested in learning more about the Valley’s wine industry.

Students craft plans to increase Tri‑Cities millennial tourism

By Becky Kramer, Carson College of Business

COVID-19 turned the team project in Joan Giese’s Marketing Management 495 class on its head.

The assignment required students to develop strategies for bringing tourists in their 20s and 30s to the Tri-Cities in Central Washington. But as the project got underway, the state’s “stay home, stay safe” orders took effect.

“Last semester, we had a very devastating external factor, and that was the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Giese, clinical associate professor of marketing at WSU Tri-Cities. “The impact on the tourism industry has been astronomical.”

Responding to the crisis became a learning opportunity, Giese says. Her class rose to the challenge, crafting plans to draw millennials to the Richland-Kennewick-Pasco area as Washington’s economy reopens.

Visit Tri-Cities, the area’s visitor and convention bureau, will incorporate the students’ ideas in its future planning, says Michael Novakovich, the president and chief executive officer.

“We’re all seasoned marketers here, and we think the students did some really outstanding work,” said Novakovich (’10 Bus. Admin., ’16 MBA). “They identified some things we are already working on, validating our efforts. And they had unique ideas as well.”

Tourism is a $500 million industry in the Tri-Cities, employing more than 6,300 people. The area is home to wineries, golf courses, live music venues, art galleries, and tours of the Manhattan Project B Reactor and the decommissioned USS Triton submarine.

With 269,500 residents, the Tri-Cities has a competitive advantage for attracting tourists as Washington’s phased reopening continues, according to Novakovich. “We offer urban experiences without the high-population densities people want to avoid at this time,” he said.

Drawing on the Tri-Cities attributes

Students suggested ways for Visit Tri-Cities to increase the area’s allure for millennial travelers. Among their recommendations:

By offering activities and spaces for children, wineries can become family destinations for travelers.
Social media is an important way to reach millennial audiences, and Visit Tri-Cities can capitalize on that through the use of social media influencers and hashtags, contests, and raffles to promote user-generated content that can be shared and reposted.
The “Tri-Cities” label may not resonate with people from other parts of Washington. Helping define what the Tri-Cities is could increase the area’s draw for travelers.
Creating a Tri-Cities Pass would open prospective tourists’ eyes to the area’s attractions, while offering a discount for bundling activities.
Before Washington’s “stay home, stay safe” order went into effect, Novakovich took the class on a bus tour of the Tri-Cities. “I was flabbergasted by all of the stuff you could do—I felt like a tourist in my own town,” said, Abraham Mendoza (’20, Bus. Admin.), who grew up in Pasco.

He and teammates Valexa Hernandez, Valerie Long, Brittany Stanton-Dameron, and Cade Timmons crafted a Tri-Cities Pass for 20-something, cost-conscious travelers. It included options such as kayaking or paddleboarding on the Columbia River, a visit to the B-Reactor, a wine cruise, local cuisine, and a farmers’ market.

“We combined what we thought were the Tri-Cities’ main attractions and made it easy for people to purchase a pass to go do those things,” said Long, a senior from Richland. The students hope the Tri-Cities Pass becomes a reality.

“If they put something like this together,” Long said, “I’ll definitely be buying it.”

Exposing students to the tourism industry
Besides benefitting Visit Tri-Cities, the students’ ideas will be shared with the Washington Tourism Alliance, says Andi Day (’91 Hist.).

Day is the vice chair of the alliance, a nonprofit that promotes Washington’s tourism industry, and executive director of the Long Beach Peninsula’s Visitors Bureau. She’s also the initiator of the class project on destination marketing, which she suggested at a Carson College National Board of Advisors meeting.

“We welcome opportunities to expose students to the tourism industry and this facet of marketing,” Day said. “It was great to get their perspectives as well.”

Day was particularly interested in the students’ Tri-Cities Pass. The alliance is working on a similar passport idea to promote in-state tourism as COVID-19 related restrictions ease.

“One of our campaigns is about exploring your own backyard,” she said. “We’re fortunate to live in a really beautiful state, and we see it as a way to promote safe travel. We can direct tourists to less crowded areas, away from large events to safer activities.”

COVID-19 Webinar 5-1-20

On 5/1/20 the WTA hosted a webinar around the response to the Covid-19. Over 300 tourism professionals from all over Washington State participated.

The webinar featured the new Interim Executive Director, David Blandford who discussed tourism spending trends. David was joined by 3 industry experts

Jon Snyder – Governor’s Senior Policy Advisor, Outdoor Recreation & Economic Development. Jon gave an update on the Governor’s most recent order and what it means for the tourism industry in Washington.

Chris Green – Assistant Director, Office of Economic Development and Competitiveness. Chris outlined the resources available to tourism-related businesses in Washington.

Anthony Anton – CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association
Anthony previewed guidelines that are being developed for the hospitality industry to safely and responsibly reopen their doors to tourists.

To view a recording of the webinar, click here.

Covid-19: Business Resources

Dear Partners:

The tourism industry in Washington and throughout the world is facing an unprecedented crisis. While we’re hopeful that our state can slowly begin to open in May, but the return to normalcy will be counted in years rather than months. The WTA remains committed to doing everything possible to keep our partners and industry stakeholders connected to the resources they need to navigate this crisis. We are continuing to work with industry leaders to remind legislators about the importance of tourism to our economy and to craft guidelines to safely reopen tourism-related businesses in our state.

Here is an updated list of links to help you find the resources you need:

Federal Resources CARES Act: This toolkit provided by US Travel helps tourism-related businesses and organizations navigate the full CARES Act. US Travel also has provided a helpful FAQ about the CARES Act.

  • Paycheck Protection Program (PPP): Congressional leaders and the administration forged an agreement to supplement the program. The $481 billion agreement provides an additional $321 billion for the PPP, $60 billion for the EIDL program, $75 billion for healthcare providers and $25 billion to expand testing capacity (including $11 billion for states to increase testing).
  • SBA Debt Relief: The SBA is providing a financial reprieve to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. This covers all principal, interest and fees on current and new SBA 7(a) loans made through September 27, 2020 for up to six months.
  • Express Bridge Loan: The SBA’s Express Bridge Loan allows small businesses that have an existing business relationship with a participating lender to access up to $25,000 quickly.

Small Business Development Centers: These centers will help you navigate available SBA loans and provide you with no-cost business consulting.
Export Credit Insurance: This program protects you in case your customers overseas are slow on paying receivables or go out of business. It allows you to commit to export sales without fear of loss during the pandemic.

State Resources

  • On 4/27 Governor Inslee announced easing of outdoor restrictions.
  • The Department of Commerce has created a list of COVID-19 Business Resources.
  • Small Business Resiliency Assistance: offering technical assistance for small business owners from culturally and historically disadvantaged communities.
  • Small Business COVID-19 Back-to-Work Planner: (Part 1) is designed to help plan the steps necessary to open your business once the state says it’s safe to do so.
  • Humanities Washington Grant: Humanities Washington is honored to provide rapid-response funding to humanities and cultural non-profit organizations in Washington State facing financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus. Funding for this grant is provided by the CARES Act and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
  •  Washington Hospitality Association: A coronavirus resource guide for the restaurant and lodging industry.

If you have questions or other resources, please don’t hesitate to communicate with us. Contact Mike Moe at mike@watourismalliance.com.

WTA Names David Blandford as Interim Executive Director

April 28, 2020

Media Contact:
Christina Pivarnik
(360) 531-0127/christina@pivarnik.com

The Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) announced the appointment of David Blandford as its Interim Executive Director, effective May 4, 2020. Blandford will lead the organization’s marketing activities in addition to a growing range of initiatives related to COVID-19, including tourism industry recovery and crisis communications.

“David has in-depth knowledge of Washington tourism, the current challenges we face, an optimistic, pragmatic view for the future, and excellent relationships with our stakeholders here in the state as well as across the country and internationally,” said Shiloh Burgess, WTA Chair. “He is the ideal person to take the helm for the WTA at this time, having served on our Board of Directors since 2012 and as Co-Chair since 2018.” He joins veteran WTA staff members Mike Moe, Managing Director, and Diana Thibado, Director of Operations. The team of three will lead WTA marketing and operations with a concerted emphasis in COVID-19 tourism industry recovery and business mitigation.

“We’ve had the opportunity to closely work with David as Co-Chair over the past two years,” said Moe. “We’re excited about the continuity of his leadership and the future of the WTA.” Blandford was part of the industry group that fought to preserve state tourism office funding in 2009-2010 and inaugurated the Washington Tourism Alliance to re-establish tourism funding after the tourism office closed in 2011. 

A 30-year veteran of the tourism industry, Blandford brings extensive marketing, communications and public affairs experience at the local, state and national travel and tourism industry levels. He began his industry career running press trips across Washington State as part of a contract with the state tourism office. In his tenure with the Seattle News Bureau and Visit Seattle, Blandford worked extensively with the state tourism office and the private sector industry to promote Washington State and its various destinations in both domestic and international markets. 

He most recently served as Senior Vice President, Public Affairs at Visit Seattle, 2017-2020. He previously held several other positions with the organization including Vice President, Communications and Director of Public Relations. During his tenure, he gained extensive experience with destination marketing, brand development, destination research, consumer and industry social media, web site development, blog creation and management and photography and video production. 

Blandford led PR missions in European and Asian tourism markets and worked in tandem with a broader travel trade team in the city, state and with partnering states. He wrote Visit Seattle’s crisis communications plan and managed events and business recovery initiatives related to WTO, the Nisqually earthquake, 9/11 and the 2008 recession. 

He is a long-time member of the U.S. Travel Association’s Communications Committee, actively supporting and defending the national travel and tourism industry through policy, public affairs and communications. Blandford is a current member of Destination International’s Advocacy Committee and a 20-year member of the Society of American Travel Writers and Public Relations Society of American, serving in various leadership roles with both associations. 

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Blandford. “This industry needs support, and we’ll need to find new ways to promote and sustain travel during the ongoing COVID-19 issue. I’m committed to both, and to working with our industry partners.”