Walter Clore Center Receives Grant

A $2 million Public Works Grant was awarded by the Federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) to co-applicants Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center (WCWCC) and Port of Benton (POB) last week. The grant award represents the final capital required for construction of the $4 million Center.   The building design process will begin immediately with construction scheduled for 2012.

The Clore Center site, located in southeastern Washington State adjacent to I-82 at Exit 82 overlooking the Yakima River, was chosen because of Prosser’s distinction as the home of the largest irrigated agricultural research center in the United States (WSU-IAREC) where the late Dr. Walter J. Clore began his research in 1937 on small fruits and wine grapes.

Through a joint operating agreement, the Port will oversee construction and own the building.  The WCWCC, a non-profit organization named after Dr. Clore, will operate the Center to promote the quality and diversity of Washington State wine and food through education and hands-on experiences.  Designed to complement its natural surroundings, the conceptual 15,000 square foot building and grounds will offer several indoor and outdoor venues including a tasting room, demonstration kitchen, agriculture and viticulture exhibits, classrooms, conference rooms, office space, retail shop, instructional vineyards, interpretive and production gardens and a walkway along the Yakima River.  Fundraising to finance these fundamental assets in addition to furniture, fixtures and equipment is on-going.      

The WCWCC will have a positive impact on Washington State’s wine and agricultural industries through education, increased product and brand awareness, job creation and stronger economies for agriculturally-based communities across the state.  Increased product demand is expected to result in the creation of 69 direct jobs in the wine industry and additional indirect jobs in the wine and agriculture sectors within a five year period.

Currently, the Washington State agriculture and food economic sector is a $38 billion industry that commercially produces more than 300 commodities. The State ranks number one in the United States for production of ten commodities including apples, potatoes, cherries, hops and grapes.

Washington state is home to more than 700 wineries and 350 wine grape growers, contributing $3 billion to the state’s economy and supporting 19,000 Washington jobs.  “The Clore Center will promote Washington agriculture and wine production while also being a tourism draw,” stated John Cooper of the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau.

An Outdoor Event Facility, a satellite building to the main Center, will open May 2011. The 2,400 square foot facility will include indoor and outdoor assembly areas, catering kitchen, office space, rest rooms and a storage area.

The Center is a partnership integrating resources and expertise of Federal Housing and Urban Development,  Washington State Department of Commerce, Port of Benton, Benton County, City of Prosser, Prosser Economic Development Association, Hanford Area Economic Investment Fund Committee, Washington State University, Washington Wine Commission, private companies and individuals over the last six years.

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Share Your Washington!

Who do you want to visit you this summer? How about your mother, your best friend, or your nieces and nephews? Now is your chance to invite them to experience the Yakima Valley and all of Washington, with the launch of Washington State Tourism’s “Share Your Washington” promotion.

Created in partnership with the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau and destinations around the state,  Washington residents can send their family and friends a special Share Your Washington invitation online at www.ShareYourWashington.com.

Running from now through June 15, the Share Your Washington promotion encourages Washingtonians to invite their loved ones to visit, while also entering into a sweepstakes for the chance to win airfare on Alaska Airlines.

Entering is simple – residents of Washington visit ShareYourWashington.com to send electronic postcards to friends outside the state, which automatically enters the sender into the sweepstakes.  The Share Your Washington postcard will also include special deals and discounts for the visitor, such as chances to win a local getaway, shopping discounts or special rates at local hotels. One of the postcards is of wine vineyards in the Yakima Valley.

“Tourism is Washington’s fourth largest industry, and our local economies depend on travelers to support local jobs and businesses,” said John Cooper, President of Washington State Destination Marketing Organizations Association (WSDMO). “The Share Your Washington program allows residents to make a difference in helping support their local tourism economies. If we all get one person to visit, we could help create 20,000 Washington jobs.”

In 2010, travelers spent $15.2 billion in Washington, according to the recently released Washington State Travel Impacts Study, making 2010 the second best year on record for the state. Visitor spending generated nearly $1 billion in tax revenue and supported 143,800 jobs.  In Yakima County, visitors spend $311 million a year and support 3,370 jobs.

For more information about Share Your Washington, and to invite a friend to visit Washington, visit www.ShareYourWashington.com or www.visityakimavalley.org.

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Business Travel Rebounding

Business travel spending and volume grew at stronger-than-expected rates in Q4 2010 and the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Business Travel Index™ reached its highest level since the recession began in 2008, offering positive signs for the performance of the U.S. economy going forward.

The fourth quarter of 2010 showed the strongest seasonally-adjusted quarter-over-quarter business travel growth since the recession began.  For the year, total U.S. spending on business travel grew by 3.2% — up substantially from the 2.3% for the year forecast previously.  Business travel spending in 2011 is now expected to be even stronger than estimated last quarter, advancing by 6.9% for the year – up from the 5% growth forecast previously. 121

 “These are very heartening signs.  Business travel spending is coming back at robust levels, indicating the shape of things to come – namely more travelers on the road, an improving economy, and a positive environment for continued job growth,” said Michael W. McCormick, GBTA Executive Director and COO.  “Thanks to increasing corporate confidence, companies are investing more in business travel which will further stimulate business activity and economic growth.”

The findings were released April 12th in the latest Business Travel Quarterly Outlook – United States from the Global Business Travel Association Foundation, the education and research arm of GBTA.

GBTA Business Travel Index™ Is Snapping Back to Pre-Recession Levels

The GBTA Business Travel Index (BTI)™ provides a way to distill market performance and the outlook for business travel into a single metric that can be tracked over time.  Initially forecast at 108 for Q4 2010, the BTI™ has been revised upward to 112 for Q4 2010, its highest point since the beginning of the global recession in Q3 2008.

This revision is equal to $1.9 Billion more business travel spend than previously forecast.  The increase of nine points over the Q3 2010 BTI™, which came in at 103, means there was a total $4.2 Billion increase in business travel spending between Q3 2010 and Q4 2010.

The rise in the BTI™ was driven by stronger economic growth and the expectation of slightly higher prices in following quarters.  For Q1 2011 the BTI™ is projected to fall slightly to 110, a small cyclical reduction from a stronger-than-expected fourth quarter but still well above 106, where the BTI™ stood in Q1 2010.

Rising Prices as Demand Grows

With economic improvement and more business travelers hitting the road, travel prices are also recovering from their sharp declines during the recession.  Rate analysis based on an aggregate of airfare, lodging, meals, ground transportation and car rentals shows travel prices in 2010 increased by 2.5% and are projected to increase between 2% to 4% for 2011.

International Travel Increases; Group Travel Continues Its Comeback

International markets continue to present new opportunities for company growth and remain top of mind for many executives as they look to maximize this potential.  Final numbers for 2010 show growth of 17.3% in international travel spend for the year.  International outbound travel is expected to continue to grow by 7.9% in 2011, proceeding at a faster rate than overall business travel growth.

Also in line with better-than-expected Q4 results and rising overall business travel levels, group travel spend grew in 2010 by 6.0% and is expected to advance by 7.0% in 2011.

Concluded McCormick, “Group travel, events and conferences are large expenses with long lead times.  Companies lacked the confidence and clarity to make these longer-term investments when the economy was struggling, but these increases are further evidence that companies are feeling much better about  investing in business travel and face-to-face meetings once again.”

Key Metrics

GBTA U.S. Business Travel Outlook

Source: GBTA press release 4-12-11

Higher Taxes Affect Travel Plans

High taxes alter travel plans, according to a new study by the U.S. Travel Association’s newly formed Travel Tax Institute. Forty-nine percent of travelers say they have altered their plans due to high travel taxes, including staying at less expensive hotels, spending less on shopping and entertainment, and visiting during the off-season, the study says.

The study is the first from the Travel Tax Institute which was designed to be the nation’s preeminent center of research and expertise on rising travel taxes at the city, county and state levels. The institute conducts comprehensive research and provides accessible information on travel taxation and the potential impact on both local economies and the broader U.S. economy.

“Travelers are often considered an easy tax target, but few public officials understand how rising travel taxes influence consumer behavior and impact the economy,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “We believe it’s important that political leaders see travelers not just as ‘out-of-towners,’ but as key supporters of local jobs, businesses and development.”

As its inaugural project, the Travel Tax Institute conducted a new survey on consumer attitudes toward travel taxes. The research reveals that taxation has an impact on travel planning and spending decisions.

Among the key findings are the following:

Taxes on Hotels, Airfare Remain High
Sixty-eight percent of travelers rated hotel taxes as “very high” (35 percent) or “high” (33 percent); 66 percent rated taxes on airfare as “very high” (38 percent) or “high” (28 percent).

Travelers Are Surprised by High Rental Car Taxes
Nearly two out of three travelers surveyed (64 percent) say that the total tax rate on rental cars is “much more” than they expected to pay compared to other travel taxes.

Travelers See Taxes Rising
Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) say they expect to pay higher travel taxes in the year ahead; only two percent believe taxes will decrease.

Travel Taxes Should Fund Travel Infrastructure
Sixty percent of travelers said that travel taxes should be reinvested in travel infrastructure, such as roads and airports, while 49 percent said that “travel/tourism marketing and promotion” also would be an appropriate use of the revenues. Only 14 percent of surveyed travelers cited “non-travel related expenditures” such as “contributions to government general funds” as an “appropriate” use of travel taxes.

In addition to surveying consumer attitudes, the Travel Tax Institute is creating a comprehensive database to track travel taxes in 50 U.S. destinations—from taxes on airfare and lodging to rental cars and restaurants. The database will also track the uses of these tax revenues, such as funding of destination marketing programs or contributions to the general fund. The database will be available to U.S. Travel Association members.

The Travel Tax Institute also has launched a price elasticity research project to better understand travelers’ sensitivity to price and the degree to which current and potential travel tax and fee levels could be reducing demand for travel, the association says.

“Government leaders are understandably facing difficult budget decisions,” said Dow. “But too often they are setting travel tax policy without a full understanding of how taxes affect travel demand and impact their local economies. The Travel Tax Institute will equip policymakers and industry leaders with the tools they need to make informed decisions.”

Visit http://www.ustravel.org.

SOURCE: George Dooley in Travel Agent online

Washington Tourism Summit a Success

Yesterday I attended the Tourism Industry Summit  sponsored by the newly formed Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA). More than 460 people were in attendance from all over the state. The event recapped where things stand with statewide tourism efforts and where things could go in the future, including what happens with the various existing assets of the state like the tourism website. Guest speakers included Mike Gallagher of CityPASS in California, and Ron Peck, with the Alaska Travel Industry Association. They gave great advice on how the Washington tourism industry should advance its efforts.

Participants were encouraged to join WTA as individuals, businesses or founding partners (which generated $31,650 in pledges that morning!)  In addition, the Port of Seattle has pledged $150,000 to WTA. Combined with support from the Yakima Valley VCB, other state VCBs, WSDMO, WA Lodging Association, Red Lion Hotels and the Puget Sound Attractions Council there is now about $221,650 pledged or in hand to help WTA jump start the long process of establishing a new statewide tourism program and organization.

WTA is a 501[c]6 organization with a mission to advocate, promote, develop and sustain the economic well being of the Washington tourism industry.  WTA has a goal of procuring and administering funds for statewide tourism marketing activities and to create and implement a strategic destination marketing plan.  WTA may establish both voluntary and legislated funding sources, however, the goal is to have marketing strategy and implementation be overseen by the statewide tourism industry organizations rather than by state government.

At the summit there was also an introduction to the Share You Washington spring campaign State Tourism has been developing that will launch in the middle of this month, so stayed tuned for that announcement.

Summit organizers video tapped the session so that link will be provided soon. Three features about the summit to review: Carol Pucci’s column in the Seattle Times, Steven Goldsmith’s column in the Puget Sound Business Journal and the online news source Crosscut.

Though it is disappointing that the State Tourism Office will no longer be funded after June 30th, I am proud that the industry is coming together to plan for the future. Tourism matters to our communities and our economy.

John Cooper

President and CEO

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