February 2015 Newsletter

Louise Stanton-Masten  

Earlier this month at the WTA Tourism Summit, WTA Board Chair Cheryl Kilday presented a report which reviewed WTA programs and accomplishments in 2014. While the WTA focus was, and continues to be, on securing long-term funding for a statewide tourism marketing program, we are proud of the programs and services that the WTA provided to our members, stakeholders and the industry last year. Two articles later in this month’s newsletter are about the Summit in detail and the status of our long-term funding legislation.Here let’s take a look at 2014 by the numbers, as presented in our annual report at the Summit:$480,000 in short-term bridge funding from the Washington State Legislature was spent in 2014 on five specific programs which support WTA’s efforts to maintain and grow tourism in Washington State. These monies supported WTA website development and maintenance; postage for fulfillment in mailing the Washington State Visitor’s Guide; tourism research; operation of a call center; and international tourism marketing.

375,000 copies of the 2014 Washington State Visitors’ Guidewere published in March. Produced in partnership with the Washington Lodging Association and SagaCityMedia, theGuide has a circulation of 375,000 and a readership of nearly one million prospective travelers. They are distributed through direct mailing, are placed at visitor centers at SeaTac airport and throughout the state, are mailed to 65,000readers of Seattle Met and Portland Met magazines and are sold at newsstands throughout Washington and Oregon.

Over 154,500 partner referrals on www.experiencewa.com in 2014, WTA’s official travel and tourism website for the state of Washington.  Traffic saw a 26% increase over 2013 with over 581, 500 visitors and over 1.7 million page views.

3,000 calls were answered by our 1-800-544-1800 call center, providing travel information and referrals to prospective visitors to Washington State.

215 companies and organizations renewed their membership investment in the WTA and 20 new members joined the WTA this year.

175 WTA members and industry stakeholders attended the 4th Annual Tourism Summit and Day in Olympia in January, 2014.

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.

20 WTA presentations about our long term funding proposal and 2015 legislation were made throughout the state at regional outreach and industry stakeholder meetings.

12 monthly E-Newsletters were sent to 5,200 member and industry stakeholders each month.

3 travel industry trade shows attended.  WTA representatives met with international and national tour operators at the International Tourism Marketing Go West Summit in Tacoma, Washington in February and the U.S. Travel Association’s 46th annual IPW international marketplace in April in Chicago. WTA members also attended the NTA (National Tour Association) Travel Exchange in Los Angeles in February.

1 piece of legislation passed during the 2014 session. The bill, SHB2229, continued our efforts to secure industry funding for our statewide tourism marketing and promotion program.

report delivered to the Washington State Legislature. As required in the legislation passed during the 2014 session, the WTA delivered our report, “Creating Stable Long-Term Funding for a Statewide Tourism Marketing Program” to the legislature on December 1st. The report proposes a long-term, significant source of funding, raised solely from the private businesses benefiting from tourism, with funds used to implement a self-sustaining statewide tourism marketing program.

Becky Bogard  

The path to passage of legislation to create a fund for marketing the state to tourists began in earnest on February 9. The House Community Development, Housing and Tribal Affairs (CDHTA) Committee held a hearing on HB 1938, legislation drafted by the Washington Tourism Alliance. The legislation was sponsored by Representatives Sherry Appleton (D., Poulsbo) and Norm Johnson (R., Yakima) and several others.

Andy Olsen, chair of WTA’s Long Term Funding Committee, spoke in support of the bill as did Becky Bogard, WTA’s Government Relations Consultant. Monique Trudnowski, one of WTA’s founding members and a restauranteur, spoke in support of the legislationas well. WTA representatives made it clear that without this legislation there will likely be no tourismmarketing program after June 30, 2015. It was also noted that the legislation continues to need work to ensure that the fee collection system works.

Washington Restaurant Association’s Julia Gorton noted WRA’s support for the bill. There were other representatives from ports, outdoor recreation organizations, fairs, and other tourism interests who spoke in support. No one opposed the bill.

On Tuesday, February 17, the House CDHTA Committee took executive action on a slightly amended version of HB 1938. The members voted 6-1 to move the bill out of committee. The amended version of the legislation contains no major changes but merely some clarification of language in the original bill.

On the Senate side, the Senate Trade and Economic Development Committee held a hearing on a proposed substitute to SB 5916, the Senate version of the WTA bill. The substitute was identical to the bill acted on by the House committee. It is sponsored by Senators Sharon Brown (R., Kennewick), Maralyn Chase (D., Shoreline) and others.

Kris Watkins, president and CEO of Visit Tri-Cities and a WTA board member, testified in support of the legislation. Andy Olsen and Becky Bogard also testified for WTA in support of the bill. George Sharp, head of the Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater Visitor and Convention Bureau, also testified in support of the legislation as did Doug Levy, representing the outdoor recreation industry. Mark Johnson, vice president of government affairs for the Washington Retail Association, testified that the association was taking a neutral position on the legislation. Several other industry partners and WTA Executive Director Louise Stanton-Masten, signed in as supporting the legislation.

Some senators expressed concern about additional fees on small businesses.  WTA representatives explained how the fees were calculated to take into account the size of businesses, the contribution such businesses make to tourism, and the exclusion of the assessment on the smallest businesses in some sectors.

The Senate committee acted to move the substitute bill out of committee and to the Senate Ways and Means Committee for consideration.

In summary, the tourism bills have met first deadline to pass out of substantive committees in their house of origin. The bills must now pass out of fiscal committees (Ways and Means, Finance or Appropriations) by Friday, February 27 unless the bills are deemed necessary to implement the budget.

Watch for WTA Alerts asking you to contact committee members to make sure the bill keeps moving!

Christina Pivarnik 

On February 12th, nearly 170 tourism professionals from across the state gathered in Olympia for the Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA)’s 5th Annual Tourism Summit to garner support from our legislators for HB 1938/SB 5916. This is legislation being proposed by the WTA for an industry funded and industry implemented statewide tourism marketing program to bring more visitors to Washington.

Over the past four years, WTA has been working diligently to develop a plan for an industry funded program. The Tourism Summit in Olympia outlined the legislation, building momentum from previous years to bring us to a place where a solution is being proposed for long-term funding for tourism marketing.

To add inspiration to the day, two prestigious speakers joined the Summit to offer their support and perspective. The opening keynote was Chris Thompson, President and CEO from Brand USA, based in Washington, DC. He spoke about the Power of Partnerships and voiced encouragement for the work WTA is doing.

The closing keynote was Todd Davidson, CEO from Travel Oregon. He recounted the day our state closed its tourism office doors telling us the media flooded him with calls asking if he “was dancing in the streets.” Quite the contrary he told us. Our lack of funding for marketing left a gaping hole. Visitors come to the Pacific Northwest first and when we have a partnership between our two states, we’re that much more effective in luring national and international visitors to the NW.

Following the morning session, we headed to “the hill” to meet with our legislators. In our debrief meeting late in the afternoon, we heard that the legislators were mostly in support of HB 1938/SB 5916, especially since the plan requires no investment of state general funds. There is still much work to do, but we’re headed in a good direction.

Capping off the day, Governor and Mrs. Inslee joined us for a surprise appearance at our reception in the Governor’s Mansion, voicing support for tourism.


Louise Stanton-Masten 

The WTA is pleased to welcome six new members who were appointed to the WTA Board of Directors for terms beginning in 2015. We extend a warm welcome to each of them. They are:

  • Wendy Becker, Cultural and Economic Development Manager, Snohomish County, at-large representative
  • Marc Berejka, Director of Government and Community Affairs, REI, representing the retail sector
  • Bennish Brown, President & CEO, Travel Tacoma + Pierce County, South Puget Sound regional representative
  • Ron Peck, Executive Director, Tourism Walla Walla, Southeast regional representative
  • Shiloh Schauer, Executive Director, Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce, representing economic development organizations
  • Kris Watkins, President & CEO, Visit Tri-Cities, at-large representative

We also offer our sincere thanks to Diane Schostak who retired as Executive Director of the Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau and resigned from the WTA Board in 2014. Diane had served the WTA as Olympic Peninsula regional representative since 2011 and was one of the original members of the WTA Board.

The WTA Board of Directors was introduced during the Annual Tourism Summit in Olympia this month. We thank each of them for their leadership and willingness to serve the WTA. Click HERE to go to the WTA website and view a full list of WTA Board members.

Lisa Schwartz
In 2014 ExperienceWA.com continued to show steady year-over-year growth. Our website reached new milestones with a 26.12% increase in user sessions from 2013 through 2014, which brought the annual site visitation to 582,000 last year!  With over 1.7 million page-views, the page-views have grown over 11%!

What’s more – in the first month of 2015, site visitation has increased by 50.1% from January of 2014, and page- views are up by 28.4% – getting 2015 off to an even greater start!

The ExperienceWA email marketing program now reaches almost 18,000 opt-in subscribers monthly, and this program generates an industry high open rate averaging 52%, with a click-thru rate averaging 3.91%!

Take advantage of these targeted, affordable, powerful marketing tools designed to bring your share of the Washington State visitor market.

For our new media kit with rates and detailed information on each program offered on ExperienceWA.com, click HERE or contact Mike Moe at mike@watourismalliance.com , 425-444-0589, or contact Lisa Schwartz at a lisa.schwartz@milespartnership.com, 206-679-1930.


The Washington State Wine Commission awarded Yakima Valley Tourism the 2015 Tourism Champion of the Year at the Washington State Wine Awards in Seattle Monday January 26th.

“We are honored to be recognized as Tourism Champion of the Year,” said John Cooper, President & CEO of Yakima Valley Tourism. “The team at Yakima Valley Tourism works hard to elevate wine tourism for the Yakima Valley and to champion our exceptional wine industry.”

Started in 2002, the awards recognize industry leaders that exhibit strong support of Washington wines and high professional standards in wine service and promotion. According to the commission, the Washington State Restaurant, Retailer and Tourism Champion of the Year are the most prestigious awards, recognizing industry leaders who show the strongest support for Washington State wine. More than 130 nominations were received for the 2015 awards.

“The winners of the Washington State Wine Awards perform a vital role in shaping Washington State as both a favored destination and a favored home for those who enjoy premium wines with superior quality,” said Steve Warner, President of Washington State Wine

The 15 businesses and individuals recognized as leaders by the Washington State Wine Awards will be featured in a full-page ad in eight key publications and media outlets: Food & Wine,Travel &Leisure, Town & Country, Seattle Met, Elle Décor, Real Simple, Sip NorthwestSeattleTimes.com as well as the 2015 Washington State Wine Tour Guide.

Yakima Valley Tourism is the official destination marketing organization for Yakima and the Yakima Valley. A non-profit organization, the mission of Yakima Valley Tourism is to stimulate economic development by marketing the Yakima Valley for conventions, groups and leisure travel.

Washington State Wine (also known as the Washington State Wine Commission) represents every licensed winery and wine grape grower in Washington State. Guided by an appointed board, the commission provides a marketing platform to raise positive awareness of the Washington State wine industry and generate greater demand for its wines.








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.