EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR UPDATE
2015 – The year in review. In 2015 the WTA continued efforts to secure legislation which will provide sustainable, long-term funding for tourism promotion. At the same time we were focused on providing essential services to promote and expand travel to Washington State. Here’s a look at the year in numbers:
375,000 copies of the 2015 Washington State Visitors’ Guide were published in March. Produced in partnership with the Washington Lodging Association and SagaCityMedia, the Guide has a circulation of 375,000 and a readership of nearly one million prospective travelers. The print guide is linked to www.experiencewa.com, was available at 2,000 visitor centers in Washington, seven other western states and British Columbia, and was mailed to 65,000 subscribers of Seattle Met and Portland Monthly magazine. Prospective travelers were also able to order individual copies of the Guide through the website.
$250,000 in short-term funding from the Washington State Legislature was spent on several specific programs which supported our efforts to maintain and grow tourism in Washington State. This was the remaining six months of interim funding provided by the State for the 2013/15 biennium, which had totaled $1 million. Monies were spent to support and enhance the visitor website, www.experiencewa.com, for postage to mail the Washington State Visitors’ Guide to travelers who requested it, for the operation of a call center, to enhance international tourism marketing with our partners at the Port of Seattle and Visit Seattle and to fund annual tourism research.
152,731 partner referrals on www.experiencewa.com, WTA’s official travel and tourism website for the state of Washington. Additionally, there were over 639,000 unique visitors to the site in 2015 and almost 1.9 million page views.
2,500 calls were answered by the WTA call center 1-800 number for the first six months of 2015, providing travel information to prospective visitors.
212 companies and organizations renewed their membership investment in the WTA; and 14 new members joined the WTA.
150 WTA members and industry stakeholders attended the 5th Annual Tourism Summit and Day in Olympia in February.
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.
12 monthly eNewsletters were sent through our visitor website, www.experiencewa.com to almost 20,000 subscribers.
11 monthly WTA industry E-Newsletters, were sent to 5,216 members and industry stakeholders each month.
3 travel industry trade shows attended. Tourism industry partners and WTA members met with international and national tour operators at the NTA (National Tour Association) Travel Exchange in New Orleans in January, the International Tourism Marketing Go West Summit in Colorado in February, and the U.S. Travel Association’s 47th annual IPW (formerly known as Pow Wow) international marketplace in May in Orlando.
Stay tuned for an important year ahead in 2016. We invite you to continue to partner with the WTA and support our efforts to obtain long-term, industry-led funding which will provide the dollars necessary to adequately support future tourism marketing programs.
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: SHORT SESSION REQUIRES LONG-TERM PLANNING
The 2016 legislative session, which began on January 11, is a “short” session; it will end on March 10. To comply with court decisions, the legislators have to consider matters relating to school funding, charter schools and mental health. As a result, there are many proposals for significant programs, including tourism, which are lining up for consideration in the longer 2017 session.
We are increasingly encouraged by our dialogue with legislators who express support for the tourism industry, willing to address funding issues and work together with us for a long-term solution.
The WTA proposal, embodied in 2SSB 5916 is still very much alive and the WTA is continuing to advocate for the bill. In addition, last week, Rep. Cary Condotta (R., Chelan) introduced HB 2552, a bill providing an alternative way to fund a statewide tourism marketing program. While this proposal has many of the same characteristics of the WTA proposal, particularly in the area of governance, it has a different funding mechanism. HB 2552 proposes a B&O tax credit for voluntary contributions made to the state tourism marketing fund. While WTA applauds Rep. Condotta for coming forward with a different funding structure, we believe that more discussion of the details are necessary. Whether these can occur before the end of the legislative session is uncertain.
As a result, WTA is asking for the supplemental budget to include some interim funding for three specific activities – WTA website enhancement, postage for sending out the Washington State Visitors’ Guide, and participation in Brand USA, the national organization that markets the United States to tourists from the rest of the world. The total amount of the request for interim funding is $400,000. This interim funding is essential to maintaining our baseline visitor fulfillment while we work with legislators and the industry on the longer-term funding plan.
So what do we need you to do now?
WTA needs you to call your legislators and ask them to tell their budget negotiators to include $400,000 for interim funding for the three activities noted above. The key budget negotiators are as follows:
Andy Hill, chair, Ways and Means
John Braun, vice chair, Ways and Means
Hans Dunshee , chair, Appropriations
We will continue to apprise you of the status of the proposal for interim funding as well as the progress of the long term funding proposals.
How are we going to get agreement on a program for adequate and stable state tourism marketing funding?
Because of the different funding proposals, there are clearly legislators thinking about ways to address the issue. Just this week, over 200 representatives of the Washington Lodging Association and Washington Restaurant Association met with their legislators and found great support for finding a long term funding solution. WTA will capitalize on this support and bring legislators, tourism industry members and others together to develop a proposal that will offer stable, reliable long term funding for the state’s tourism industry. With legislative involvement comes ownership on the part of the legislators who participate and thus an interest in getting something accomplished. These legislators will become our champions with their colleagues. We believe this will position us well with the other proposals that may come before the 2017 legislature.
The WTA Board knows that this has been a long road for our members and stakeholders. It is important to keep in mind that when other states have made changes in the way they fund tourism marketing it has taken at least five years and those changes have come in good economic times. We still have time to show that we can get it done sooner than other states! The WTA board, staff and consultants thank you for your active support and look forward to continuing to work with you until we accomplish our goals. And we will accomplish those goals!
LAST CHANCE TO RESERVE YOUR AD IN THE OFFICIAL 2016 WASHINGTON STATE VISTORS’ GUIDE – Just 2 weeks remaining!
The custom eNewsletters have also been extremely popular. This last year they have had average cost-per-click of $1.86.An outstanding value!
SUBMIT YOUR STORIES
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
WTA WELCOMES DECEMBER MEMBERS