Senate Passes Bipartisan Travel Promotion Act

Yesterday the U.S. Senate passed the Travel Promotion Act.  According to the U.S. Travel Association, the legislation is expected to be signed into law by President Obama.

“This is a historic victory for the U.S. economy and the one in eight American workers whose jobs depend on travel,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.  “The United States Congress has sent a clear message that travel is a high priority to our nation and that tangible steps must be taken to increase travel to and within the United States.

For more on the legislation and what it means for the USA visit this link.


While there was good news from the U.S. Capitol, the Washington State Senate and House of Representatives are debating legislation that would eliminate or greatly reduce the Washington State Tourism office.

Washington State Tourism  is responsible for generating travel to the state through sales efforts, marketing and partnerships with local communities and regions.

“If we allow our state tourism efforts to crumble, all the other states will benefit from this new national tourism effort except us,”  stated John Cooper, President and CEO of the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau and President of the Washington State Destination Marketing Organizations.

Tourism professionals fear that if the state tourism office is eliminated, travel to Washington State will decline as it did in the 1990s when Colorado eliminated their tourism office for a few years. According to a 2005 study conducted by Longwoods International in 2005, within two years of eliminating the tourism office Colorado lost one third of its market share among U.S. tourists.  This translated to lost annual visitor spending of $1.4 billion initially, growing to over $2 billion by the end of the decade.

“We can’t afford to have Washington state follow in Colorado’s footsteps,”  Cooper stated.

Tourism is a $14 billion industry in Washington state, employing more than 147,000 people and generating in excess of $1.0 billion in state and local taxes.

Washington residents are encouraged to click THIS LINK to take action and save state tourism efforts.

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U.S. Losing International Visitors

The decline in overseas travel to the US since 2000 has cost America half a billion dollars and more than 440,000 jobs in total travel-related spending, according to a new report by the U.S. Travel Association, in conjunction with Oxford Economics.

“While international travel has been an oasis of opportunity, we’re still lost in the desert,” said Roger Dow, U.S. Travel’s president and CEO. “We can’t afford another lost decade when we’re looking for ways to kick-start the economy and create jobs.  If not now, when?”

The new report, focused on the “Lost Decade” in overseas travel to the U.S., underscores U.S. Travel’s recommendation that Congress pass bipartisan legislation — now awaiting action in the Senate — to create the first-ever promotion and communications program aimed at attracting international travelers to the U.S.

According to Dow, the US welcomed a projected 2.4 million fewer overseas visitors in 2009 than in 2000. This contrasts with the growth in international travel over the decade, which led to 46.3 million more international travelers taking long-haul trips in 2009 than in 2000.

The projected 2009 results show 23.5 million visitors to the US from overseas, a decline of 7.1 percent compared with the 25.3 million who visited in 2008.

In calling for prompt action on the Travel Promotion Act,  Dow cited a recent study showing the widespread benefits of sending a welcoming message around the world.

Oxford Economics found that the impact of a well-executed, fee-funded promotion program of $200 million will attract 1.6 million new visitors each year, add $4 billion to the U.S. economy annually, produce $320 million per year in new federal tax revenues and create approximately 40,000 new U.S. jobs.

UPDATE 4/4/11: According to a recent email from USTA, the United States welcomed just one percent more high-value overseas visitors in 2010 than it did in 2000, despite an extraordinarily weak dollar and an increase of 60 million long-haul travelers worldwide (up 40 percent) during the last decade. The failure to simply keep pace with the growth in global long-haul travel worldwide has cumulatively cost the U.S. economy 79 million lost visitors and $585 billion in lost spending, which could have supported 450,000 jobs directly and indirectly in all regions of the country.

Source: TravelMole

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Yakima Valley VCB Attends Event

Today, representatives from the Pacific Northwest joined the celebration in Vancouver B.C. to court media and tour operators covering the 2010 Winter Olympics. Staged by Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER), the function was at the BC Showcase right next to the famous skating rink of Robson Square in downtown. During the luncheon reception about 35 media and tour operators met with state, provincial and regional representatives to learn of tourism opportunities in the Northwest.  There was much interest in Washington’s wine country and the farm fresh products of the Yakima Valley.

PNWER is a public-private partnership chartered by the states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington; the western Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Yukon; and Northwest Territories. PNWER is  dedicated to encouraging global economic competitiveness and preserving our world-class natural environment.

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Year of The Deal

This  just in from travel reporter Chris Elliott:

A recent forecast by Mintel, an international market and consumer research firm, predicts travel sales will basically remain flat in 2010 (they fell a projected 2.2 percent, to $123 billion, in 2009). However, air travel and hotel sales will drop by roughly 2 percent each, it says.

Research by Deloitte & Touche paints a bright outlook for bargain-hunters. “Leisure travelers will continue to seek out specials in 2010,” says analyst Adam Weissenberg. “With hotels fighting to hold their rates as much as possible, they may offer an additional free night, complimentary spa treatment or discounted meals. For its part, the airline industry is boosting incentives for leisure travelers by offering such things as a monthly pass.”

In case you’re wondering why the deals will probably continue, industry guru Peter Yesawich of Y Partnership has an answer: According to his research, just over half of all active travelers say they plan to “stay fewer nights” on an upcoming vacation than they did this year. The implications are of “considerable concern” to the travel industry, he says, because they could push prices lower.

I realize nobody knows the future, and predicting travel prices is a fool’s game. Still, it seems to me the real question isn’t whether there will be more deals, but where they’ll be.

Here are 10 places to find them during the Year of the Deal.


If you come across a hotel or cruise line that insists it “never” discounts, don’t believe it. This year, everyone will discount. It’s just a question of how much. Amanda Sundt, the chief marketing officer at the adventure travel site iExplore, says upscale resorts will continue to offer spa and dining credit credits and two-for-ones. Worse, hotel capacity is expected to grow as major chains like Hyatt and Four Seasons open new properties. “Look for good introductory deals as the hoteliers want to start seeing an immediate return and build buzz about the new properties,” she says.


The travel industry’s soothsayers want you to believe that airfares are on the verge of taking off again. They may be right. But they probably aren’t. Chris Lopinto, the president and co-founder of, says lackluster demand from leisure travelers will continue to keep fares low. In fact, he predicts fares will stay depressed until business travelers jump back into the game. “I think once business and business travel picks up again, we’ll see air prices go significantly higher,” he says. When? Maybe by the fall of 2010. Then again, maybe not.


Resorts offer so-called “value” season during off-peak times to lure guests. Guess what? Those value prices could last all of 2010, according to hoteliers like Steve Heydt, president of Elite Island Resorts, one of the largest independent Caribbean hotel groups. “Resort business is not showing any measurable increase,” he told me.

“We’ve responded to this trend by ensuring that we allow our current value pricing to roll over and be available next spring, summer and fall. This is the only way we believe we can stimulate advance vacation bookings.”


“Wave” period, which happens early in the year, is the time when most cruises are booked. This year, they’ll be giving them away, from the sounds of it. “Cruise lines are putting the brakes on new ship builds, and those under construction are still being built, but most of those on the drawing board are on hold,” says Danny Borg, a partner for the discount travel site Undercover Tourist. “The cruise lines will continue to lower prices until their ships sail at capacity.” He and other experts recommend booking early, which is when all the sales are likely to happen.


Here’s a tip from an airline insider: If you’re looking for deals, it pays to participate in social media, like Twitter or Facebook.

“Social media has quickly become a new sales and loyalty channel for airlines,” says Lufthansa spokeswoman Jennifer Urbaniak. Her airline sees social media as a way to offer special Internet-only discounts on tickets next year—and she expects other airlines to do the same.


“The problem we are battling now is perception,” says Robert Tuchman, an executive vice president at New York-based event planner Premiere Corporate. “Companies don’t want to seem like they are being extravagant, so they are making employees fly coach and not business or first.” That’s translating into bargains just where you wouldn’t expect them: in business- and first-class fares and at upscale resorts.


How much deeper? A lot. I asked Clem Bason, president of Hotwire, and he’s looking for “sharply discounted deals”—both on the kind of opaque deals his site offers (those are ones where the name of the resort isn’t revealed until you book) and vacation packages. Archrival also offers opaque deals, but most of the major online agencies, including Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity, have aggressively discounted packages that promise to be even more aggressively discounted in coming months.


Many travel companies plan to make up for lost revenue by “unbundling” their rates—meaning they’ll separate the base fares and rates from “extras” like the ability to make a confirmed seat reservation or get a newspaper delivered to your room in the morning. “The trend towards a la carte pricing will definitely continue,” says Todd Dirks, a vice president at WNS, a business process outsourcing company. “Airlines have found this to be a material and sustainable source of revenue.”

Just one problem: The reservations systems can’t handle these fees, so customers don’t find out about them until it’s too late. Lesson? Look for a rate that includes everything (Southwest Airlines is one of the few carriers that doesn’t nickel and dime customers).


A bargain-hunter’s natural instinct is to look for a deal where the deals are known to be. This year, they’ll be there—and elsewhere, predicts Elie Seidman, the chief executive of Oyster Hotel Reviews. Take New York City, for example. “Rooms at the Trump Hotel in Las Vegas would cost $500 a night if it were in Midtown Manhattan, but these days, they’re often going for less than $100 a night,” he says. “Prices in Las Vegas will go even lower when City Centre opens at the end of the year. And if the Fontainebleau in Vegas is able to get out of its current problems, Las Vegas will get even cheaper for tourists.” People don’t normally associate these destinations with bargain rooms. But that’s the thing—whether you follow the crowd or not, you can’t lose.


Some of the most attractive offers may be related to your award miles, according to Chris Barnard, president of That’s because travel companies are trying to unload as many miles as possible. “In order to increase their value to travelers, program operators are adding new and different redemption options—everything from restaurant and retail gift cards to program-sanctioned mileage trades,” he says.

Happy bargain travel!

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Washington State Tourism 2009 Report

Despite the economy, tourism continued to prove an important part of the fabric and economy of Washington.  Last week State Tourism released its 2009 annual report.

According to the report, travelers to Washington in 2009 spent more than $14 billion in the state and generated $235 of tax revenue for each Washington family. Although reflecting a decrease from peak year 2008, this decrease is reflective of national trends, with key contributing factors being drops in hotel room rates and gas prices in 2009.  In fact, Washington has held its own in terms of national market share, despite a difficult economy and very competitive landscape.

Tourism supports more than 147,000 jobs in Washington, nearly five percent of the job force.

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Tourism Industry Rallies

Pam Turner of the Sunnyside Chamber and Kirsten Danielson with the VCB

Yesterday more than 200 tourism industry professionals from across Washington state convened in the state capitol to advocate for a $14.2 billion industry that supports nearly 150,000 jobs, contributes nearly $1 billion in local and state tax revenues and ranks fourth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) produced in Washington.

Industry professionals will met with elected official in Olympia to explain Why Tourism Mattersclad with namesake buttons from the public awareness campaign launched last year. The contingent of destination marketers, hoteliers, tour and transportation leaders and representatives from many other businesses across Washington discussed basic funding and infrastructure improvements that will keep Washington from falling behind in a competitive tourism marketplace.

The industry’s legislative agenda includes support for continued funding for the 2009-2011 Washington State Tourism budget; use of existing funds to continue studies on the proposed  expansion of the Washington State Convention Center; opposition to House and Senate bills that would raid and dilute local lodging tax funds that have traditionally served as critical reinvestment in the state’s tourism industry (Section 11 of HB 3179 and Section 5 of SB 6164) and opposition to action on a newly-posted Senate bill that, if passed, would not only deplete basic tourism funding but seriously undermine the state tourism industry’s competitive marketing position (SB 6118).

“We understand that our legislators face enormous pressure to dig our state out of this financial crisis,” said John Cooper, President of the Washington State Destination Marketing Organizations (WSDMO). “We were in Olympia to pledge our support. If a foundation of industry growth is maintained, tourism can produce quick economic benefit. Tourism can create and sustain jobs. The direct spending and tax base contributions of out-of-state visitors can be part of the solution.”

The Why Tourism Matters public outreach and advocacy campaign, conveys the importance of Washington’s tourism industry by way of advertising, online content, public relations and cooperative industry communications.

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2009 Yakima Valley Tourism Annual Report

Undoubtedly 2009 was a difficult year for the travel and tourism industry due to the economy. The good news is that despite these challenges, the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau achieved significant goals, advancing tourism for the region. Accomplishments included securing funding for improvements at the Yakima Convention Center, generating more than $540,000 in media exposure for the Yakima Valley and serving more visitors at the Information Center.

For a complete report on the projects of the visitors bureau, see the online version of our 2009 Annual Report.

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