Yesterday, more than 450 tourism industry professionals, civic leaders and the media gathered at the Sea Tac Hilton for a one day summit to review the past year efforts of the newly formed Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA), hear updates on current marketing efforts plus long range funding concepts for marketing Washington as a destination. Updates on national legislative items and the newly created marketing initiative Brand U.S.A. were also presented.
WTA Executive Director Suzanne Fletcher shared an overview of the formation of the organization after the elimination of the Washington State Tourism office in 2011. 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. It was established by industry stakeholders with the sole mission of sustaining Washington State destination tourism marketing. WTA procures and administers funds for state destination tourism marketing activities and creates and implements a strategic statewide destination marketing plan.
Since forming last spring, WTA has taken over the assets of the closed tourism office, including the website experiencewa.com, created a partnership with the Washington Lodging Association to produce and distribute the Washington State Visitors Guide, developed a modest cooperative marketing campaign, represents the state and membership at various industry trade shows plus built a state wide network of industry advocates. In addition, it has been building its organizational structure, solicited membership and corporate support plus educating the public of the importance of tourism for economic development and jobs.
U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow gave an update on the various challenges facing the U.S.A. in attracting foreign visitors, including long wait times for VISA approvals to visit the country and the hassles of airport security. He also discussed the importance of everyone in the travel and tourism industry taking an active role in talking to elected officials on the importance of tourism and getting their support on behalf of the industry. To that effect, U.S.T.A. and the Power of Travel Coalition have created a public advocacy campaign called Vote Travel.
The day wrapped up with a presentation by California Travel & Tourism Commission President and CEO Caroline Beteta. Ms. Beteta serves on the Board of Directors of Brand USA (formerly the Corporation for Travel Promotion). The public-private marketing entity was created in 2010 to work with the travel industry to maximize the social and economic benefit of travel in communities around the country. At the summit she unveiled the new Brand USA branding efforts and marketing campaigns to attract visitors to the U.S.A.