Archive for the ‘Tourism product development’ Category

Why Yakima Needs to Improve Its Convention Infrastructure

July 21, 2016

The meetings and convention market is a crucial part of our local tourism industry and economy. It’s also important to other cities around the Pacific Northwest. Yakima competes with these cities to attract meetings. If we are to be successful in bringing and keeping conventions, we must maintain and improve our convention and hospitality infrastructure. If we don’t, we risk losing millions of dollars in revenue, taxes and jobs created by the convention industry.

Meeting planners review many factors when choosing a city to hold their event: location, costs, support infrastructure, surrounding attractions, activities, etc.  A recent survey of 398 U.S. planners conducted by the Kliman Group and Fulcrum found that the top three “destination strength elements that contribute to destination appeal” when choosing a city are lodging, air service and meeting assets (e.g. convention center). Yakima is largely a drive-to destination and while the City has made great strides in improving air service, it’s currently not a major factor for convention planners in our market. Quality lodging and the convention center, however, are crucial factors. The Yakima Convention Center has a stellar reputation for service, plus has had significant improvements since it was built. We must, however, do more if we are to remain competitive.

According to data we track, the primary reason for cancellations and groups not booking the Yakima Convention Center is due to a scheduling conflict with another group for the center (31%). The second most common reason was a lack of meeting or exhibit space for dates group desired (28%), followed by groups opting for a self- contained location, specifically at a hotel (20%). Collectively, these three reasons account for nearly 80% of lost convention business.

There is growing concern among current and past clients regarding the perceived lack of space at the center. Some of these groups have chosen other venues instead of the Yakima Convention Center, including Spokane and Tri-Cities, while others indicate they are on the verge of outgrowing the current Yakima facilities.

In 2015, the City of Yakima, with the support and involvement of the Yakima Public Facilities District, commissioned Kidder Mathews to conduct a market study on our convention center, lodging facilities and to assess competing markets. The researchers involved in the study have extensive experience in hotel and convention center analysis. Their study recommended that market conditions warrant an additional 51,000 square foot exhibit hall. As stated in their report, “By adding a dedicated exhibit hall to the Yakima Convention Center Campus, the city would create a definite competitive advantage over both Kennewick and Wenatchee. With the exception of the Spokane exhibit hall, Yakima would be the only facility with true exhibit space…. It would distinguish the new facility from alternative options in the competitive markets.”

The new exhibit hall would also increase the center’s scheduling flexibility, improving our ability to host multiple events and organizations concurrently. The added space would also allow the center’s sales team to target organizations that have outgrown the existing facilities. Both advantages would support efforts to recapture lost business due to capacity and scheduling, which accounts for 58% of total defectors.

Davenport Grand Hotel in Spokane, WA

Davenport Grand Hotel in Spokane, WA

Likewise, our headquarter lodging needs to be addressed. Last year, Spokane welcomed a new headquarter tower hotel connected to their convention center with more than 700 guest rooms, 60,000 square feet of meeting space and a parking garage. In the Tri-Cities, a new SpringHill Suites opened last summer, also connected to their convention center. In Wenatchee, the City recently sold land to a developer to build a 170 plus room Hilton Garden Inn along the waterfront next to an existing walkway to their convention center. These are our three main competitors.  We are losing conventions to these cities because of the condition and age of our headquarter hotel. Kidder Mathews recommends building a new headquarter hotel to replace the aging Red Lion. A number of scenarios and locations around the Yakima Convention Center Campus are being evaluated. Other possible hotel plans in the city core could have a bearing on the final configuration for the project.

Currently we are working with the City to secure an architectural firm to estimate costs and develop renderings of a center addition and headquarter hotel. This would help show what the vision could look like and assist us in advancing the project.

The Yakima Convention Center is a cornerstone in the health and vitality of Yakima. It currently pumps more than $11 million into the local economy. It brings visitors and locals to the city center, generates activity for partner facilities plus increases customers for businesses and attractions across the community.

I hope you will join me to work with the community, private and public sectors to ‘raise the bar’ and upgrade our convention amenities.

John Cooper

Yakima Valley Tourism

Washington Wine Flies Free On Alaska Air Program Extended

June 26, 2014

Taste and Tote Wine Flies Free on Alaska AirWashington Wine Country recently negotiated a two year extension of the popular Taste and Tote program with Alaska Air. The program allows passengers departing from Yakima, Pasco or Walla Walla airports to check a case of properly packaged wine on their Alaska Air flight home. Other benefits include waived drop off fees and discounts from Hertz Rent A Car and waived tasting fees at nearly 200 wineries.

“This has been a great program to further develop wine tourism in the region,” stated John Cooper, President & CEO of Yakima Valley Tourism and lead coordinator for the program. “Dozens of cases of wine are flying home each week from Yakima alone, providing local wineries with new business opportunities.”  Cooper also hopes that as the program grows, more people will use Alaska/Horizon Air service to and from Yakima for their travel, which could result in more air service for the community.

Starting July 1st, passengers must be members of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan to take advantage of the wine flies free program. Passengers can sign up at no charge by clicking here or at the ticket counter at the three airports. For complete details visit the Taste and Tote Program Details page.

Washington Wine Country is an alliance of the Yakima Valley Tourism, Tri Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau and Tourism Walla Walla. Washington Wine Country is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting wine-related tourism and economic vitality by fostering regional partnerships throughout the celebrated wine growing region of Eastern Washington, where 99 percent of Washington State’s wine grapes are grown.

 

Yakima Valley Featured in National Geographic Book on Dog Travel

April 7, 2014

Dog Lovers coverNational Geographic Books has released The Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel which includes dog friendly businesses, attractions and outdoor areas in 75 pet-friendly cities and regions across the United States and Canada. The Yakima Valley is one of six communities in the Pacific Northwest featured in the book.

 The Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel was written by Kelly E. Carter, a New York Times best-selling author and pet travel expert for AOL’s Paw Nation and Elite Traveler. In each destination Carter highlights pet offerings including hotels, parks, pet shops and pet friendly businesses. Features of the book include walks to take with your dog, insider tips from local pet owners and sidebars detailing opportunities for people with a dog in tow.

Yakima Valley Tourism approached Carter in early 2013 as the book was being developed. In 2012 the tourism office had created WineDoggies.com, an award winning program developed to assist visitors traveling with their dogs to the Yakima Valley. “When we found out she was writing this book we knew the Yakima Valley was the right fit,” stated John Cooper, President & CEO of Yakima Valley Tourism. “We enjoyed working with Ms. Carter and are honored our community was included.”

WineDoggies.com provides pet-friendly businesses and must-see stops in the region. It also includes a ‘Doggie Bloggie’ hosted by a local canine, an interactive map of 50 plus dog-friendly businesses with open-pet policies and a section where dog-friendly businesses and guests can add pictures and stories of their dogs enjoying Washington’s wine country. In addition to featuring the Wine Doggies website, the book highlights numerous Yakima Valley walking and hiking trails, local pet services, dog friendly wineries and pet events.

The other Northwest cities included in the book are Seattle, Portland, Bend, Coeur d’Alene and Missoula. The Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel can be found at local bookstores,  Amazon.com and National Geographic’s online bookstore.

Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau Changes Name

January 17, 2014

The agency responsible for developing and marketing tourism for the Yakima Valley will be doing business under a new name. Effective today, the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau will be doing business as Yakima Valley Tourism. The change resulted from a board retreat last year as the organization made future plans for tourism in the region.

Yakima Valley Tourism made the announcement today at the Yakima Convention Center where it presented updates and issues facing the local, state and national tourism industries to the public.

“The new name is easier to remember, better reflects our mission and coincides with the launch of our six-year strategic plan,” stated John Cooper, President & CEO. “Our organization is responsible for all facets of tourism including conventions and groups, visitor services, sports and leisure travel. Tourism is an inclusive word for all sectors of the industry.”

The main website to promote Yakima Valley will be www.yakimavalleytourism.com

Yakima Valley Tourism is a non-profit trade association. It has been known as Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau since forming in 1957.

A Look at Tourism in the Yakima Valley in 2013

December 30, 2013

As the new year begins we’re busy finishing up an our Annual Report, which will be out later this month. In the mean time, here are a few the year’s highlights through November:

Convention & Group Sales:  At the end of November the sales department confirmed 94 conventions held (up 11% over same period in 2012), reached 90% of their group leads goal and exceeded their annual hotel room nights confirmed goal by 5% with 35,842 room nights!

The Yakima Convention Center welcomed Centerplate as the new caterer in May after the Red Lion Corporation (which owned M&M Catering) discontinued their contract. Centerplate caters at 300 convention and event venues across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom and annually serves more than 115 million guests.

Web marketing: Our main website performed very well. Through November the site saw more than 293,590 visitors, an increase of 24% over 2012. Much of the increased traffic was a result of seasonal campaigns like the current “win a ski day contest with Andy Mahre”.

New websites: The Spirits and Hops Trail was launched in July and celebrates locally made adult beverages and our hop heritage. Yakima Valley Made is a directory of more than 100 locally grown and crafted goods and products. Both sites have been popular and  help us to market Yakima Valley artisan products.

Public Relations/Media: We placed more than 90 travel and lifestyle media pieces in 2013 with an advertising value exceeding $538,000. Click here for a sampling of the stories and features that resulted from our efforts.

Our  Yakima Valley Sports  Commission saw record attendance at their Hot Shots 3 on 3 Tourney with 497 teams, an increase of 8.5% from 2012 and the sixth straight year the team numbers have grown.  In its second year, the Pirate Plunder Adventure Race plunged ahead with 1,484 racers… that’s 60% more participants than in 2012!

The Yakima Valley Visitor Center celebrated 10 years of service in May with a community party. Pam Lakman is the new Manager at the VIC, replacing Pam Alamos who retired.

Wine tourism: The Washington Wine Country alliance continued the Taste and Tote “wine flies free” program with Alaska Airlines. In October we welcomed Hertz as the new rental car partner for the program. Our CEO John Cooper was a speaker at the national Wine Tourism Conference held in Portland last month, highlighting partnerships and local marketing projects. Other projects included seasonal websites for major wine events and wine country focused advertising.

These are just a sampling of the successes and projects for 2013.  Stay tuned for the full Annual Report soon.

Tourism 2020: State of the Tourism Industry in the Yakima Valley

December 23, 2013

headerImageBlockTM-copyAs the New Year begins, the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau is rolling out a number of programs aimed at building all forms of tourism in the Yakima Valley in 2014 and beyond.  To outline these projects, the Bureau will hold a presentation Friday, January 17th 10:00 a.m. at the Yakima Convention Center, 10 North 8th Street in Downtown Yakima.

Among the topics to be covered:

  • Update on the state of the tourism industry nationally, state wide and locally
  • Brief review of Tourism 2020, the organization’s  strategic plan for tourism in the Yakima Valley
  • Review proposed legislation to fund new Washington state tourism efforts
  • Announce an important change for the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau

There is no charge to attend the session and the event is open to the public. To RSVP call 800- 221-0751 or contact laura@visityakima.com

Washington Wine Country Announces New Partnership With Hertz Car Rentals

October 24, 2013

tasteAndToteLogoHertz

Yakima, WA:  Washington Wine Country announces the launch of a new collaborative effort with Hertz Rent-A-Car to promote Washington Wine Country. Launching this month, Hertz will be the official rental car company for the “Taste and Tote” program, making it easier and more affordable for visitors to tour the Yakima Valley, Tri-Cities and Walla Walla Valley wine regions.

As part of this partnership, Hertz will waive car drop-off fees for visitors flying into Yakima, Pasco or Walla Walla regional airports who wish to fly out of one of the other two airports. In addition, passengers that fly into those communities will receive a discount when using Hertz Corporate Discount Program (CDP) number 2016865.

“The Taste and Tote program has been a big success in the region and we believe the addition of Hertz as a partner will make the program more beneficial for our air travelers,” stated John Cooper, President & CEO of the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau.

Existing features of the Taste and Tote program allow travelers on Alaska Airlines to check a case of wine free of charge within the U.S. plus customers can sample wines at nearly 200 participating wineries and pay no tasting fees when they show a current Alaska Airlines boarding pass from one of the three airports. Details on the Hertz offers and the Taste and Tote promotion can be found at www.tasteandtote.com or at http://www.visityakimavalley.org

About Washington Wine Country

Founded in 2003, Washington Wine Country is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting wine-related tourism by fostering collaborative regional partnerships throughout the wine growing regions of the Yakima Valley, Tri Cities and Walla Walla in Eastern Washington, where more than 90 percent of Washington State’s wine grapes are grown. For more information, visit www.winecountrywashington.org.

About The Hertz Corporation
The Hertz Corporation operates its car rental business through the Hertz, Dollar, Thrifty and Firefly brands from approximately 10,400 corporate, licensee and franchisee locations in North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia, Australia, Africa, the Middle East and New Zealand. Hertz is the largest worldwide airport general use car rental brand, operating from approximately 8,800 corporate and licensee locations in approximately 150 countries. Hertz is the number one airport car rental brand in the U.S. and at 111 major airports in Europe. Dollar and Thrifty have approximately 1,580 corporate and franchisee locations in approximately 80 countries. Hertz is an inaugural member of Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards Hall of Fame and was recently named, for the thirteenth time, by the magazine’s readers as the Best Car Rental Agency. Hertz was also voted the Best Overall Car Rental Company in Zagat’s 2013/14 U.S. Car Rental Survey, earning top honors in 10 additional categories, and the Company swept the global awards for Best Rewards Program and Best Overall Benefits from FlyerTalk.com. Product and service initiatives such as Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, NeverLost®, and unique cars and SUVs offered through the Company’s Adrenaline, Prestige and Green Traveler Collections, also set Hertz apart from the competition. Additionally, Hertz owns the vehicle leasing and fleet management leader Donlen Corporation and operates the Hertz 24/7 hourly car rental business. Hertz also operates one of the world’s largest equipment rental businesses, Hertz Equipment Rental Corporation, through approximately 350 branches in the United States, Canada, China, France, Spain and Saudi Arabia, as well as through its international licensees.

 

About Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, subsidiaries of Alaska Air Group (NYSE: ALK), together serve more than 90 cities through an expansive network in Alaska, the Lower 48, Hawaii, Canada and Mexico. Alaska Airlines flies nonstop from Seattle to Walla Walla Regional Airport, Yakima Air Terminal, and the Pasco/Tri-Cities.

Service to Portland is also available from Pasco/Tri-Cities.  Connections can be made beyond Alaska’s Seattle and Portland hubs to destinations in Alaska, the lower 48, Mexico and Canada. To purchase tickets, visit www.alaskaair.com or by calling 1-800-ALASKAAIR.

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Visitors Bureau Builds Tourism for Yakima Valley

September 5, 2013

As summer winds down and fall approaches, we want to share recent successes of the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau in our efforts to build tourism for Yakima and the Yakima Valley.

August was a hugely successful month for media coverage resulting from our efforts! Notable coverage included articles in Lonely Planet online, Portland Magazine’s fall story, Seattle Time’s Pacific Northwest Magazine, Crave Local.com, 425 Magazine and others. In total the exposure generated $52,000 in advertising value and reached 20.5 million readers.

The Sports Commission finished the annual Hot Shots 3 on 3 Tourney in Downtown Yakima. We had a tourney record of 497 teams, an increase of 8.5% from 2012 and the sixth straight year the team numbers have grown. An estimated 12,000 people were downtown for the event.

Now the Sports Commission turns to fall events. September 13 and 14th we host the SunDome Volleyball Festival with more than 80 teams and close to 1,000 players from all over Washington and Oregon.

Following that we stage the Pirate Plunder Adventure Race October 5th. To date we have more than 860 registered (last year there were 878 total racers). This year we are partnering with the Allied Art’s Fresh Hop Ale Festival happening that day to make Yakima a weekend destination.


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