New Website Features

Websites need constant attention and updating. With that in mind we are happy to announce new web updates for two important divisions of the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau.

We have just completed an upgrade of the the Yakima Valley Sports Commission’s website. Besides a whole new look aligned with our brand standards, features include an updated sports venue guide, details on local sporting events and volunteer opportunities.  In addition, the Sports Commission’s two signature events  Hot Shots 3-on-3 basketball tournament and the SunDome Volleyball Festival now have dedicated micro-websites.

The Group and Convention Sales Department now has a dedicated sales section on our main website.  The section aggregates information about the Yakima Valley relevant to meeting planners as well as convention services, promotion assistance, online group reservations and conference support.

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Volcanoes and Travel

Mother nature can affect tourism, as the situation with the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland illustrates that with a vengeance.

Since erupting and sending huge plumes of ash into the air, thousands of people traveling to and from Europe are stranded.  The good news is that less affected air corridors can be re-opened tomorrow, though areas closest to the ash cloud will remain off-limits to air travel for the time being.

According to the U.S. Travel Association (USTA), evidence suggests that ‘even as air space begins to re-open, cancellations, itinerary revisions and other disruptions to travel plans have already affected U.S. business since last Thursday and will likely have an impact at least through the coming weekend.’

USTA also shared the following facts today:

  • The International Air Transport Association estimates the crisis is costing the airlines $200 million per day in lost revenue and the European economy billions each day in lost business.
  • The event is certain to have a significant impact on the U.S. economy as well as thousands of would-be visitors are unable to travel to the United States. The Air Transport Association has indicated 1,324 flights on U.S. carriers between Europe and the U.S. have been cancelled since Thursday.
  • According to Eurocontrol, the organization that regulates continental air traffic, about 28,000 flights would normally have been scheduled in the skies over Europe today but fewer than a third of them were able to take off.
  • IATA estimates that 750,000 passengers are affected.

As USTA stated in an email today, ‘the continuing disruptions to travel have served as a significant reminder of the role travel plays in our lives, and vividly illustrates how the world has come to depend on travel for tourism, family travel and business of all kinds.’

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The Future of Conventions and Meetings

Conventions book many years in advance… so what does the future hold for the meeting industry beyond the current economic slump? Fast Future Research recently surveyed 1,125 meeting planners in 76 countries.  The results?  Planners believe that in 2020, the quality of networking will be biggest factor influencing meeting attendance (76%) plus there will be more smaller, specialized meetings (79%).  Also important, events will need to offer strong price-based incentives to build attendance (77%).

Naturally technology will continue to play a growing role with live video streaming (75%), social networking (70%), and mobile event content (64%) being the most popular forms of technology used at conventions.

Meeting planners are also more attune to ethical and environmental interests of their attendees, and venues at schools, universities, and colleges will offer the most competition to convention centers.

The message? For those of us in the meeting and convention industry, we need to be attuned to the future needs of meeting planners and attendees.

For complete results, visit

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Yakima Convention Center: A New Look

Ken Rustia of Great Floors Carpeting installs a carpet tile in the Yakima Convention Center

This will be an exciting year for the Yakima Convention Center. In the coming months we will begin construction of the Outdoor Plaza on 8th Street. The Plaza will give the center a modern, welcoming entrance and outdoor function area with landscaping, outdoor seating and a 7,000 square feet event area. Funding for the Plaza is part of the City of Yakima Downtown Futures Phase IV through an appropriation from the Washington State Capitol Budget.

In addition to the plaza, work continues on a number of improvements to the center. Through support from Yakima County, more than $563,000 of improvements are underway including replacing the carpeting, upgrading public restrooms, and improvements to the moveable room dividers. In the back of the house planned projects include better lighting controls and sound equipment and the re- roofing a section of the building. Finally, the center is getting new skirting and backdrops for tables and stages plus replacing most of the chairs and conference room furniture.

“By year end the center will have had a complete face lift,” stated John Cooper, CEO of the Yakima Valley Visitor and Convention Bureau. “With the 300 days of sunshine here in the Yakima Valley, the plaza will be a welcome outdoor venue.”

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Trends in Wine

When we initiated our destination branding efforts in 2008, our customer and community research clearly showed that along with farm fresh products and experiences, wine focused tourism is what distinguishes the Yakima Valley from any other region in the state or Pacific Northwest. No surprise as the wine industry started here more than 25 years ago. So it was with great interest that we reviewed the Wine Market Council’s (WMC) latest U.S. wine consumer research.

According to WMC, despite the state of the economy wine consumption continues to grow. From 2007 to 2008, table wine consumption increased by 1.2%. While Americans drinker less wine than other countries, per capita the U.S. is only behind Italy in the volume of table wine consumed and is the fourth largest producer of wine.

Other findings from their 2009 research:

  • While buying more, consumers want quality, but at a lesser price.
  • Consumption of domestic wines remains strong.  Washington wines sustained 4% market share, second in the nation behind Goliath California, which has 65.5% of  the domestic market share.
  • The Millennials are reshaping wine consumption. Born between 1980 and 1995, there are 80 million of them in the US. “The Millennial generation offers the wine industry the kind of growth potential not seen in more than thirty years,” WMC states. “Moreover, Millennial adult wine drinkers have been impacted less severely by the economic downturn… and are sustaining their taste for wine and choice of wine in a variety of casual, everyday situations.”

Trends to watch in 2010 include a decline in fine dining by Americans, which could affect wine sales in restaurants. Also, word of mouth continues to be a major source of how many learn of wine brands and regions. Social media like Twitter and Facebook have big wine communities and discussion groups, but industry analysts question if extensive online ‘buzz’ translates into increased sales.

FYI- The Wine Market Council is a non-profit association of grape growers, wine producers, importers, wholesalers, and other affiliated businesses and organizations. The council’s mission is to establish the widespread acceptance of wine as a rewarding part of American culture and to encourage the responsible enjoyment of wine by current and future generations of adults in the United States.

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