Customer Advisory Focus Group

Today the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau finishes a two day educational program for eight state meeting planners, local hospitality industry and sales staff. The purpose of the event is to provide  critical training for meeting planners on their issues and needs in event planning, give feedback to Yakima Valley meeting and hospitality providers on how to work better together with planners plus a sales ‘tune up’ session for the VCB, Convention Center and Sports Commission sales staff.

But not all of the time was centered on work! The planners and their guests were treated to a fun evening at Cultura Winery and Cherry Wood Bed, Breakfast and Barn in Zillah. This morning they were treated to a breakfast at the Yakima Arboretum and for lunch they will dine on stage at the Capitol Theatre.

The educational program was developed and facilitated by Linda DiMario of DiMario and Associates of Long Beach, California.

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The State of the American Traveler

Twice a year, Destination Analysts of San Francisco releases findings of their online survey of about 1,000 leisure focused American travelers. The July report released this week had some interesting findings. Here are a few:

  • Average number of leisure trips taken in the past 12 months jumped 4.3% to five trips.
  • However, the number planning to take a leisure trip in the NEXT 12 months has declined 5%
  • Travelers expect to be more frugal over the next 12 months.
  • The greatest factors that have kept people from traveling more has been finances (56%), cost of gasoline (41%) airline travel too expensive (36%) and too busy at work (28%)
  • Given the overall economic climate 62% of those surveyed stated they will seek travel discounts and bargains, 30% will visit less expensive destinations,  24% will reduce the number of leisure trips and 22% will ‘vacation’ at home.
  • Technology and travel planning go hand in hand.  Nearly 43% of the respondents used user-generated content for their planning like reviews of hotels and restaurants. More than 26% used some sort of social media for the travel planning.
  • But printed resources still have a place: Nearly 35% used some sort of printed material like a travel magazine, newspaper travel section or guide book.
  • More and more people are using technology while traveling. 30% took a laptop with them on a leisure trip and 28% used a mobile phone/PDA or hand-held device to access travel information online.
  • Of those who used mobile devices/PDAs, the top uses included finding restaurant info, check the weather, look at maps, use a GPS application for directions and find information on hotels.

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Staycation? Daycation?

The other day travel columnist and consumer advocate Christopher Elliott penned a piece titled “Six Tips for Taking a Summer Daycation.” And while he admits it’s another ‘silly neologism”  that has been around a few years, he went on to give tips on how to basically spend a few hours or a day exploring your home town and region “but not so far that you have to spend the night.”  Basically, a daycation is what I refer to as ‘leisure time,’ spending a free day visiting a state park or taking in a cultural event nearby. I’m all for people getting to know their home town and enjoying its offerings.  By doing so we become our best ambassadors for our communities.

After sharing some good advice like utilizing your local Visitors Bureau for information, he closes with the statement “I’d like to think the economy is to blame for the daycation trend, but as a consumer advocate, I’m not convinced it’s the only reason. The travel industry has dished out substandard service to us for so many years, it’s little wonder we are reluctant to get out there again. Maybe the service needs to improve before we hit the road. Looks like we’ll have to wait until 2011 for a real vacation. “

Is Mr. Elliott, whose blogs are sponsored by a myriad of travel businesses that rely on overnight and extended travel, encouraging us to stay home? Definitely economic conditions have caused many to revise their travel plans, but I’m for traveling and exploring beyond 20 or 30 miles from where I live now, not in 2011, and I think most Americans are too.  The U.S. Travel Association (USTA) summer leisure travel forecasts predict a 2.3% increase in travel volume of at least 50 miles or more from home this summer compared to last, which indicates that travelers are not sitting still. In addition, their ongoing Traveler Sentiment Index measures quality of service as one of the six indicators and according to a staffer with USTA, “the current index does not indicate any ongoing issues with service quality on a national level.”

I know our level of service and hospitality here in the Yakima Valley of Washington is top notch, much like our wine, farm fresh produce and outdoor fun.  So if Mr. Elliott wants to take a vacation here, he’s welcome to be my guest! And I’ll take a daycation myself to give him a personal tour!

John Cooper
President & CEO

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Outdoor Plaza Groundbreaking

Officials break ground for new outdoor plaza

Marking a new chapter in the redevelopment of downtown Yakima, ground was broken today at the Yakima Convention Center for the addition of a nearly 7,000 square feet outdoor plaza and 8th Street enhancements.

Speakers included State Representative Norm Johnson, State Senator Curtis King, City Manager Dick Zais and Visitors and Convention Bureau Chair Jamie Stickel.

VCB Chair Jamie Stickel speaks at event

Groundbreaking Event Slated for Outdoor Plaza

After months of planning, design and contract awarding, the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Outdoor Plaza at the Yakima Convention Center is now scheduled. The event will take place Monday, July 12 10:30 am at the east entrance of the center at 10 North 8th street in Downtown Yakima.

The Outdoor Plaza is the focus of the City of Yakima’s Downtown Futures Initiative Phase IV, the program that has funded the many streetscaping improvements in Downtown Yakima. The plaza will add nearly 7,000 square feet of outdoor space to the Yakima Convention Center. The project includes a unique privacy rock wall, landscaping, colorful pavers, outdoor seating, and overhead lighting. Major work is slated to be finished by late September with additional amenities completed by year end.

In addition, streetscaping amenities and lighting similar to existing features on Yakima Avenue will be added to South 8th Street from Yakima Avenue to Chestnut Avenue.

Combined the two projects are budgeted at $900,000.

Opened in1976 and expanded twice, the Yakima Convention Center is a cornerstone in the economic vitality of Downtown Yakima and Yakima County. In 2009 the center hosted 512 event days.

Yakima Herald Republic’s online story of July 10th.

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