Right now, Washington state’s tourism promotion efforts consist mainly of a visitors guide and someone answering a phone. Despite that, visitors spent $18 billion in the state last year.
Now comes another effort to revive Washington’s tourism promotion, four years after the Legislature killed off the tourism office.
Three words come to mind: Do it. Now.
The Legislature is considering a proposal for private funding for state tourism marketing. The effort would raise just $7.5 million annually, less than the national average but far more than the paltry $500,000 now devoted to tourism.
The proposal would create the Washington Tourism Marketing Authority. It would be funded by tourism-related industries themselves and would be governed by a 13-member board.
That alone makes the effort unique. The majority of state tourism promotions are at least partially publicly funded.
A recent U.S. Travel and Tourism Association report shows that Washington has lost ground since its short-sighted decision to pull the plug on its tourism funding. Neighboring states have all increased their tourism budgets in the past few years. Montana, for instance, upped its spending by 30 percent.
Study after study proves that travel promotion leads to economic development, including the creation of new jobs. The return on investment far exceeds the cost.
While $7.5 million still lags smaller states such as West Virginia, Maine and even Idaho, it represents a decisive first step in a state that virtually abandoned tourism promotion as recently as 2011.