With the Governor signing the state budget yesterday, $1 million in short-term bridge funds will be allocated to the Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) to continue its critical work to maintain and grow Washington State tourism.
The budget allocation underwrites the basics of a targeted marketing program in 2014 and 2015. Funds are specifically allocated for the state’s destination website for travelers; postage for mailing the Washington State Visitors’ Guide; operation of a tourism call center; tourism research; and international marketing. The Department of Commerce is directed to contract with WTA to provide these services to expand and promote the tourism industry for the state. Terms of the contract will include a one-for-one matching requirement in either cash or in-kind services.
“This is an important first step in WTA efforts to build a long-term, fully funded tourism marketing program,” said Louise Stanton-Masten, WTA Executive Director. “However, it is only a fraction of what Washington State needs to effectively compete with other states. ”
“Tourism is crucial to our state’s economy,” said John Cooper, CEO of the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau and a WTA Board member. “Without a strong state tourism effort visitors will go elsewhere and Washington could lose revenues and jobs. “
As Washington is the only state in the nation without a state supported tourism marketing program, the WTA has lobbied for short-term bridge funding from the state, while also working to establish a long-term, sustainable funding model designed to create an industry-funded organization. The two-pronged strategy involves finalizing a plan that will set up a mechanism to collect funds from various tourism-related business sectors to promote the state as a tourism destination.
In February, Governor Inslee released his Working Washington Agenda which references the importance of re-engaging tourism – the state’s fourth largest export industry according to Gross Domestic Product – following the closure of the state tourism office nearly two years ago.
Figures released in March by WTA indicate that tourism in Washington State improved slightly in 2012 thanks to the national economic recovery, however, visitation to Washington State lagged behind the U.S., spurring concern about the state’s tourism market share. Competing western state tourism budgets range from $10 million to $60 million. Comparatively, WTA began work with a budget of some $300,000 when the state tourism office closed and has worked to sustain it by raising incremental funds through membership and corporate sponsorships.
Tourism is the fourth largest industry in the state with visitor spending of $16.9 billion, $1.1 billion in state and local tax revenue and more than 155,000 tourism jobs with earnings of $4.7 billion. In Yakima County visitors spend $354 million annually, support 3,580 jobs and generate $24 million in state and local taxes.
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About the Washington Tourism Alliance: The Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) is a 501[c]6 organization 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. www.watourismalliance.com