Seattle Times – Tourism leaders want Olympia to visit

Posted by Jon Talton – Seattle Times
Tourism officials were in Olympia earlier this week to lobby for state support in marketing. Washington closed its state tourism office in 2011 over budget woes, the only state to do so.

According to the Washington Tourism Alliance, an industry group, direct visitor spending grew 2.4 percent from 2012 to 2013. But the rate of growth slowed. In the previous year, it was up 3.4 percent.

“While the small increases in tourism might look good on the surface, the numbers actually tell a deeper, somewhat alarming story,” Alliance board Chair Cheryl Kilday said in a prepared statement. “The rate of tourism growth in Washington has continued to slow since the legislature closed the state tourism office in 2011. This is hard proof that we need get the WTA up and running at full speed, and that’s why this legislative session is so important.”

The Alliance has received short-term bridge funding from the Legislature of $500,000 in each year of the 2014-15 biennium to fund for the basics of a state tourism marketing program. Memberships and corporate sponsorships totaled $300,000 after the state office closed. But other states spend much more. Competing Western states spend between $7 million and $50 million a year. That high end would be California).

Two bills introduced this session would establish more funding on a more long-term and sustainable basis (SB 6195 and HB 2229). Louise Stanton-Masten, the Alliance’s executive director, said “This is a watershed moment for the WTA in our efforts to establish a long-term funding plan for statewide tourism marketing.”

According to the Alliance, travel and tourism supported more than 154,500 jobs in 2013, up 1.6 percent, following growth of 1.9 percent in 2012. The industry generated earnings (payroll) of $5 billion, up 3.9 percent following growth of 5.4 percent in 2012.