Board Finishes Planning Session

Today the Board of Directors for the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau  and management staff completed a day long planning session at the Canyon River Lodge. During the session the board participated in team building exercises, analysis of industry strengths and weaknesses in key function areas plus brainstormed strategies to improve partnerships and funding sources.

The session was facilitated by industry veteran Sandy Ward of the Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour.

Results from the retreat will be used by the organization and staff to craft strategies for partnerships, marketing initiatives, funding and delivery of services in the coming year.

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Boycott Affecting Arizona Tourism

During the past few weeks, the media has covered how the growing boycott of Arizona over its adoption of immigration legislation has affected tourism to and from the state. Here are some excerpts from various media sources and industry publications.

At the time of this blog’s creation, some 16 cities have passed resolutions to restrict business  with Arizona based businesses and city related travel to the state for city. For example, the Los Angeles city council voted 13-1 on May 12 to bar the city from conducting any business with Arizona unless the law is repealed. Mayor Antonio Villariagosa has ap­proved the measure. The move will likely affect about $8 million in contracts, the Wash­ington Post reported.

The Seattle City Council passed a resolution to protest Arizona’s new illegal-immigration law through a city boycott of goods and services from Arizona and, like many resolutions passed by other cities, stated that departments are to ‘avoid sending City officials or employees to conferences or events in Arizona.’

The Greater Phoenix CVB has released a statement about the issue, charging that “the Arizona convention and visitor industry is being used as leverage in a political issue with no direct connection to our industry.”

“Anything intended to hurt the state’s industry will directly impact 200,000 Arizonans and their families who rely on tourism for their livelihood,” according to the statement. “The industry is an integral part of our State’s economy, and in today’s economic environment, it is more important than ever that we do everything we can to attract—not discourage—visitors to Arizona,” it continues.

“Organizations choosing convention sites and visitors have choices, and we may never know the full impact that all the publicity surrounding the passage of Senate Bill 1070 will have on those choices.”

The boycott is also causing a boomerang affect. After the San Diego city council made a decision to boycott Arizona in opposition to the state’s new immigration law, some would-be Arizona tourists have nixed their trips to the West Coast city. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the San Diego CVB has received notice from a number of Arizonans canceling their reservations. Roughly 2 million Arizona residents visit San Diego each year.

Meanwhile,  the largest U.S. travel related association has weighed in against the boycotts. “We call for an end to counterproductive Arizona travel boycotts,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement released earlier this month. “Immigration reform is an important and sensitive topic for Arizona and the country at large. This complex issue should be resolved on the merits of various proposals, not by holding an industry and its 300,000 employees hostage to politics.”

A boycott of travel to and within Arizona could result in job losses for thousands of American citizens, Dow warned. “We appreciate the acknowledgment that travel is a major economic force in Arizona and across the country,” he continued. “We need to protect this critical aspect of our economy and reward hard-working Americans instead of proposing boycotts that will lead to job losses and economic hardship for families and local communities. It is inappropriate to punish the men and women of our industry who have done no harm to others.”

Sources: USAE, Seattle Times, San Diego Union Tribune, U.S. Travel Association

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American Summer Travel Plans

What are American’s summer travel plans? Recently American Express Travel commissioned a study to find out. The research sample of 2,000 adults included the general U.S. population, as well as two subgroups – the affluent and young professionals.

Those surveyed plan to spend an average of $1,000 per person on summer travel, indicating that the average family of four expects to spend about $4,000 on their summer vacation. That figure jumps to around $4,800 among young professionals and nearly $6,400 among affluents. Parents, however, are planning more than summer vacations, as 58 percent are ready to arrange summer activities for their children and plan to spend an average of $600 per child.

“The summer vacation, and particularly, the family vacation is alive and well this year,” said Audrey Hendley, vice president of American Express Travel. “People are passionate about travel, and frequently we find that they would rather find creative ways to reduce the cost of their trip rather than do without it altogether. Other investments this summer tend to be around parents finding experiences and activities for their children at home — ensuring a fun-packed summer.”

Not Just Families…

While family trips will be most popular (52%), a variety of other vacation types are being planned, including:

  • Couples trips (26%)
  • Trips with friends such as “girlfriend getaways” and “mancations” (10%)
  • A “staycation”—intending to enjoy time off and attractions near home (11%)
  • Experiential or adventure vacations such as a culinary retreat or hiking trip (7%)
  • Educational vacations (4%)

Of those taking a summer vacation, most (89%) will stay within the U.S., with destinations in the South (31%) and Northeast (29%) being the most frequented. A significantly smaller percentage of consumers (16%) plan to travel outside of the U.S., primarily to the Caribbean (6%), Canada (5%), and Europe (4%). Affluent travelers (19%) are more likely to venture outside of the U.S. and young professionals (29%) are twice as likely as the general population to do so.

The 49 percent of people without summer vacation plans this year cited several factors. Among those people:

  • 44 percent said they had not saved for a vacation
  • 23 percent reported they plan to spend the money on something else like home improvements or local activities. Included in these, 18 percent plan to spend on family necessities.
  • Only eight percent said they don’t have the time to either plan or take a vacation this year

The vast majority (80%) surveyed have a strategy to reduce the cost of their summer vacations. The most popular ways to stretch travel dollars among the three groups surveyed include:

Driving instead of flying to destination 33% 28% 33%
Planning a shorter length of stay 30% 24% 31%
Spending less on activities or excursions 27% 25% 31%
Dedicating more time to bargain-hunting for deals on airfare and accommodations in the research phase of their planning 24% 31% 42%
Using points/rewards for travel 20% 26% 21%
Traveling outside summer holidays 13% 11% 22%
Downgrading on accommodations 12% 7% 17%

Staying Connected While Away

While on vacation, the majority (77%) of Americans intend to stay “connected” via Internet, phone, social media or other channels. However, the primary reason for doing so is to stay in touch with family and friends (89%), as opposed to staying on top of the news (31%) or work (14%).

Aside from checking personal and/or work-related email (79%), the most popular online activities consumers plan to engage in while on vacation include:

  • Using Internet sites to find trip-related information, recommendations/deals for restaurants/activities, and directions (38%)
  • Online banking (37%)
  • Checking/updating social media profiles (20%)

Most consumers (65%) expect connectivity to be included in their vacation accommodations and are not willing to pay extra, but 35 percent would be willing to pay an additional fee.

Keeping Kids Busy All Summer Long

At home, 58 percent of parents will also look for ways to keep their children engaged through educational and recreational activities. In fact, many parents (26%) say they will spend more on activities during the summer than they do during the school year with an average of $600 per child. The most popular activities planned for their children outside of the home are:

  • Some form of camp (35%)
  • Enrichment activities, such as music, theatre or art classes (10%)
  • Swimming lessons (10%)
  • Summer school or tutoring (8%)
  • Foreign language classes (4%)

About the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker

The American Express Spending & Saving Tracker research was completed online among a random sample of consumers aged 18+. The research sample of 2,000 adults surveyed the general U.S. population, as well as two sub-groups – the affluent and young professionals. Interviewing was conducted by Echo Research between April 16 and April 21, 2010.  Overall, the results have a margin of error of +/- 2.2 (or 4.3 among affluents and 4.4 among young professionals) percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence.

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Hospitality Training Gets Underway

Today, Heritage University and the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau launched a valley wide SuperHost® Fundamentals Training session at the Yakima Convention Center.

SuperHost® Fundamentals is a customer service training program developed by Tourism BC. Since its inception, SuperHost® Fundamentals has gained worldwide recognition as an excellent training program which hones the customer service skills of tourism, retail and service industry front line professionals. In the early part of this year, Heritage University purchased the SuperHost® Fundamentals license and had four individuals trained as facilitators in the Yakima Valley.

“Our goal is for the Yakima Valley to become known for excellent customer service,” says Jessica Morgan, Community Outreach Coordinator for Heritage University. “This training will not only help participating businesses to grow and increase revenue.”

Future training sessions:

  • June 10th and 11th 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
  • July 13th and 14th 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
  • August 16th and 17th 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

All sessions will occur at the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Yakima. Cost is $20 per participant. To register contact Jessica Morgan at or at (509) 865-8673

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Tourism Awards Presented

The Kruegers of Orchard Inn B&B accept the award for Best Lodging

At our annual lunch today, the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau presented their encore! awards to five businesses and individuals.  Awards were presented to Santiago’s for Best Restaurant, Orchard Inn Bed and Breakfast for Best Lodging, Tasting Room Yakima for Best Wine Tasting Room experience. Recognizing their contributions to the tourism industry, the Prosser Chamber of Commerce was presented Tourism Business of the Year and Shirley Puryear of Bonair Winery was awarded Tourism Person of the Year.

A highlight of the program was a heartfelt presentation by Seattle actress, comedian and speaker Tracey Conway, who spoke on issues related to heart health and life priorities. More than 240 industry and community leaders attended the event at the Yakima Convention Center.

The Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau is the designated tourism marketing organization for Yakima County and the Yakima Valley.

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National Travel and Tourism Week

May 8-16 is National Travel and Tourism Week in the USA. For more than 20 years this week in May has been set aside to recognize tourism. Given the strength of this industry and what it contributes to our economy, jobs and lifestyle, it’s worth celebrating.

Here are a few facts to illustrate why this industry is so important:

For Yakima County visitors

• Spend more than $345 million each year

• Generate more than $25 million in state and local taxes

• Create 3,419 direct jobs and an estimated 1,800 indirect jobs in support industries

Travel and tourism is one of the most significant and reliable industries in America.

• America benefits from $1.7 trillion in economic output generated by travelers. More than 10 million people depend on travel for their jobs.

• Spending by travelers generates $111 billion in tax revenue for local and federal governments. The average American household pays $950 less in taxes every year because of travel in the United States.

• In challenging economic times, promoting and increasing travel is a proven way to boost the economy. Travelers come to our city and spend money on hotels, restaurants, businesses and attractions, then they return home and we don’t pay for their education, medical care, etc.

• When overseas travelers visit the U.S., they stay longer and spend more than any other visitors, on average about 16 nights with spending in excess of $4,000 when they visit.

• Following several consecutive years of decline, U.S. Travel is projecting modest increases in both business and leisure travel this year, gains that are expected to create 90,000 new jobs for the economy.

• In the wake of a prolonged recession, it’s more important than ever to underscore that travel benefits communities. It puts Americans back to work quickly and helps fill up tax coffers.

The benefits of travel are proven and diverse, affecting the bottom lines of businesses and the well-being of individuals.

Benefits to businesses:

• According to a 2009 study by Oxford Economics, businesses see an average return on investment of $12.50 in profits and $3.80 in revenue for every dollar spent on corporate travel. How many other business investments yield a 12-to-1 ROI?

• The vast majority of business travelers surveyed said that meetings, conference and incentive travel has a high effect on employee morale and performance.

• In order to achieve the same effects as incentive travel, a company would have to increase an employee’s base compensation by 8.5 percent. That means that an employee making $100,000 a year would have to have his or her pay increased by $8,500 in order to have the same effect as, say, a $2,000 all-expense-paid incentive trip.

Benefits to personal health:

• Taking a vacation once a year can cut the risk of a heart attack in half.

• Even a vacation of only one or two days can reduce blood pressure, heart rate and stress levels.

Travel is the front door to experiencing America’s diversity and hospitality.

• The U.S. is getting in the game to market itself to international travelers. Thanks to new national travel promotion legislation signed by President Obama, the U.S. is on its way to welcoming millions of new travelers and creating thousands of new jobs.

• People who have visited the U.S. are 74 percent more likely to have a favorable opinion of the country.

• Visitors to Yakima Valley experience all the great things we have to offer, then they spread the word – nearly 9 in 10 travelers tell friends and relatives about their travel experiences here.

In celebration of National Travel and Tourism Week, the VCB will host our Annual Meeting and encore! Awards May 13th noon at the Yakima Convention Center. At the event encore! Awards will be presented for Best Restaurant, Winery of the Year, White Glove Award for a lodging establishment, Tourism Business of the Year and Tourism Person of the Year.  For tickets call 509-575-3010.

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