At the half-way point of the Washington State Legislature’s 105-day session, a proposal to create a statewide tourism marketing program is gaining support for inclusion in the next state budget. Committees in both the Senate and House have approved legislation to create an industry-led Tourism Marketing Authority and provide performance-based industry funding mechanisms without additional taxes on Washington’s fourth largest industry. Tourism advocates are working with legislators to ensure the proposal is a part of the next biennial budget. “We have great support from both sides of the political aisle, as well as from legislators in both urban and rural districts,” said Cheryl Kilday, chair of the Washington Tourism Alliance. “Our strategy now is to have the program noted in the budget and therefore the bills will be accepted as a part of the legislature’s most important fiscal action this year.” The tourism marketing program has broad support for its key objectives: • Independent oversight of the industry-run program by a board of tourism industry representatives and legislators. • A marketing plan and campaign that focuses on bringing more tourists to Washington and out to rural and tourism-dependent counties, emphasizing outdoor recreation opportunities and designed to attract international tourists, crafted by a non-profit entity representing the geographic and cultural diversity of the state. • A funding mechanism for a Tourism Marketing Account that does not raise taxes and offers the potential for a $15 million marketing program over the next two years for a tourism marketing program.

Washington State closed its tourism office in 2011 and while visitors to the Greater Seattle area have continued to be strong, many smaller and rural communities have struggled to keep vital tourism dollars (and the resulting jobs and tax revenue) flowing to their businesses. Tourism impacts more than hotels, restaurants and destinations. It benefits retailers, outdoor recreation, state parks, ports and cities – and ultimately the taxpayers of Washington. More than $1.8 billion in local and state tax revenues are generated directly from tourism. It’s the largest employer of women and minorities and is responsible for more than 170,500 jobs.

The WTA continues its statewide grassroots effort to support the legislation to rally support. The “It’s a Great Return – Tourism Works for Washington” campaign showcases how tourism benefits every community throughout the state. Links to more information are found here.