Yakima Valley National Travel and Tourism Week

NTTW14_V_4C_jpegMay 3-11 is National Travel and Tourism Week, when across America, the tourism industry celebrates the role travel plays in the economy and their communities.

As a kick off to the celebration, on April 30th Yakima Valley Tourism hosted their tourism awards luncheon at the Yakima Convention Center, with 200 business and civic leaders in attendance. Bale Breaker Brewery was presented Tourism Business of the Year for their unique brewery operation in a working hop field and the media attention they have garnered since they opened in April 2013. John Baule, Director of the Yakima Valley Museum, was recognized as Tourism Person of the Year for his past and present efforts to enhance Yakima as a destination and his service to numerous arts and community organizations.

Tourism is a big industry for Yakima County. Travelers in 2013 spent $359 million in the county, which is up 4.7% since 2008 when the national economy entered a recession. “With the exception of a slight dip in 2010, travel and tourism grew each year for the past five years,” stated John Cooper, President & CEO of Yakima Valley Tourism. “That’s a testament to the strength and endurance of this industry in our region, even during economic downturns.”

There are 3,530 people employed in tourism in Yakima County. Visitors generate around $24 million a year in state and local taxes, which Cooper points out goes towards public services enjoyed by local residents including police, fire, parks and roads.

The U.S. Travel Association (U.S.T.A.) has developed a campaign called the Travel Effect, which illustrates the impact travel and tourism has on our lives, businesses and local, state and national economies.

According to U.S.T.A., travel supports 15 million jobs across the nation. The workforce includes workers in the transportation, hotel, restaurant, attraction and retail sectors. In addition, travel and tourism supports employees in other industry sectors such as construction, manufacturing and finance.

U.S.T.A .reports that travel also promotes physical and physiological health and improves workplace productivity. In 2013, the average U.S. employee skipped 3.2 days of paid time off. According to a recent study, if workers used all of their available paid time off, the U.S. economy would gain $160 billion in additional annual business sales, which would support 1.2 million new jobs and generate $21 billion in new annual tax revenues.

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The Many Benefits of Travel

Reprinted from Travel and Tourism Today by permission:

It’s a new year, time to make travel plans! Let’s hit the road and make that big sale or lure new clients. Maybe attend a conference to learn new skills or build contacts. Journey to an exotic locale or just head out for a weekend getaway. Whatever reason you take to the road, seas or skies,  travel offers lots of benefits that are well documented.

Need some proof? The folks at the U.S. Travel Association and their partners have developed a website aptly named Travel Effect. Based on research, the site shares many ways our economy, work and personal lives benefit from travel. Here are a few examples:

Personal benefits of travel:

  • Travel is beneficial to the aging process. Women who vacation every six years or less have a significantly higher risk of developing a heart attack or coronary death compared to women who vacation at least  twice a year. Men who do not take an annual vacation have a 30% greater risk of death from heart disease.
  •  Travel is good for families. In a survey of youth ages 8-18 they strongly agreed that on family trips they get to “see and do new things that I’ll remember for a long time” (64%) and that some of their “best memories are of things that I did during a family vacation” (49%).
  • Travel builds relationships. According to a USTA survey, “couples who travel together are significantly more satisfied with their relationship than couples who do not.” For example, 84% of the respondents who travel as a couple believe that they spend quality time together, compared to only 70% of respondents who do not.

Professional benefits of travel: A detailed study conducted by the Oxford Economics U.S.A. documented the value of business travel, including:

  • Executives and business travelers estimate that 28% of their current business would be lost without in-person meetings.
  • Business travel is a catalyst to the development of business relationships on every level. For example, networking with vendors (48%) and prospects (43%) were among the top reasons for attending trade shows.
  • According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, 69% of meetings attendees consider in-person networking to be “very or extremely important” to their job performance.
  • 75% of survey respondents report that employees who take most or all of their vacation days perform better compared with employees who take less vacation.

Economic value of travel: The travel and tourism industry adds much to our national economy:

  • Domestic and international travelers spent $855 billion in 2012.
  • 7.7 million people were directly employed in the travel and tourism industry with an annual payroll of $200 billion in 2012.
  • Travelers generated $128 billion in local, state and federal taxes in 2012.
  • Each U.S. household would pay $1,060 more in taxes without the taxes the tourism industry creates.

Travel also serves a greater purpose. It connects people from around the world, potentially building a better understanding of different cultures, traditions and lifestyles. As the International Institute for Peace through Tourism proclaims, “Every traveler is potentially an ambassador for peace.” That alone makes travel worthwhile.

Washington Tourism Alliance Meeting

The Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) and Regional Tourism Partners

 Invite you to participate in the WTA South Central Regional meeting for an informative discussion regarding the WTA 2014 legislative objectives, including the industry-funded, self-assessment model that will be sought in 2014.

November 6th 1:00 p.m.

Princess Theatre

1226 Meade Ave 

Prosser, WA 99350

The goal of WTA is to establish a statewide industry funded marketing program. As a member of the tourism industry your participation in this discussion is critical to our success, so please plan to join us!

Please RSVP to Stephanie Gangle

stephanie@visityakima.com

800-221-0751

Background:

The Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) is a 501[c]6 established by industry stakeholders with the sole mission to advocate, promote, develop and sustain the economic well-being of the Washington Tourism Industry.

The WTA was created in February 2011 following the announcement of the closure of the Washington State Tourism office by the end of the 2009-2011 biennium. The WTA immediately set forth to protect and preserve a number of ongoing state tourism programs and valuable marketing assets of great importance to the industry. In addition, the WTA began to create a long-term strategy for funding, development and marketing of a new, industry driven state destination tourism program.

How the U.S. Federal Shutdown is Affecting Tourism

capitol-building For the past week I’ve noticed various stories on how the partial government shutdown has affected people and communities. Just a few minutes ago the U.S. Travel Association released some telling data on what it means from an economic standpoint.

In their release the U.S. Travel Association estimates “the partial government shutdown costs the U.S. $152 million a day in economic output due to lost travel-related activity, affecting as many as 450,000 American workers directly or indirectly supported by the travel industry.” What’s particularly frustrating is that travel and tourism is America’s top services export and that the industry has added jobs faster than the rest of the economy since the U.S. economic recovery began three years ago.  Now we may lose ground on those economic benefits and job growth due to this stalemate.

It’s clear to me that travel and tourism’s impact on the economy and peoples livelihood are just two more reasons why all parties involved need to put the rhetoric aside and find a solution to the impasse. Now.

John Cooper

President & CEO

Washington State Legislature & Governor Fund Tourism Efforts

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

Washington State Deserves a Tourism Program

When it comes to marketing a state for tourists, like sports you’re either in the game or you’re not. Washington State is not only out of the game, we’re nowhere near the parking lot.

In July 2011 the state tourism office was shut down due to budget constraints. Meanwhile, our surrounding states (and main competitors) expanded their tourism marketing. California and British Columbia each now have budgets exceeding $50 million. Oregon spends more than $12 million to lure visitors. Idaho is around $9 million. Any of the 50 states in the USA spend more than Washington to attract visitors.

Why do states invest in tourism promotion? Because it makes good business sense. Michigan recently invested $30 million in their tourism efforts and created 10,000 new jobs and $43.5 million in tax revenues. Conversely in 1993 Colorado eliminated its tourism office. Research showed that Colorado’s domestic visitor market plunged 30% within two years, representing a loss of over $1.4 billion in tourism revenue annually. Recognizing they were ‘out of the game’ and it was affecting their economy, the state starting funding a state tourism program some seven years later. But we can’t afford to wait seven years.

Tourism means jobs, new tax revenues and affects all regions of our state. Tourism is the fourth largest industry in Washington with nearly 150,000 jobs. Visitors spent $16.4 billion in 2011, generating more than $1.8 billion in state and local taxes. Yakima County is ranked 8th of the 39 counties in visitor spending with $350 million spent annually by visitors supporting more than 3,500 local jobs. Visitors also reduce your tax load. According to research conducted by Dean Runyan Associates of Portland, Washington families pay $400 less in taxes because of revenues generated by out-of-state visitors.

As the state tourism office closed the tourism industry formed the Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) to move tourism forward for Washington. A primary focus of the organization has been to educate legislators, policy makers and business leaders of the importance of tourism for our economy, jobs and quality of life. We’ve been looking at the ways other states fund their tourism efforts. A favored model being considered involves having tourism industry sectors pay assessments that are pooled together to market the state. That’s how they do it in California and their program has been very successful. Getting industry support takes time (California took five years to pass their funding model).  In the meantime, WTA is asking for $1.9 million in ‘bridge’ funding from the legislature until a more stable funding source is developed.  This would cover website costs, postage to mail an industry funded visitor guide, a toll-free call center, research and some international marketing. Considering the average state tourism budget exceeds $14 million, that’s small change, but it’s a start in the right direction.

I am encouraged that Governor Inslee supports these efforts in his Working Washington Agenda and hope the legislature will also back this initiative to build tourism.

If Washington wants to be in the tourism game, we need to be all in and support an industry developed and industry driven tourism marketing program. Otherwise we will strike out.

John Cooper is the President and CEO of the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau and serves on the board of the Washington Tourism Alliance representing Central Washington.

This was a guest editorial in the February 17th 2013 issue of the Yakima Herald Republic daily newspaper.

Travel To USA To Grow In 2013

November 1, 2012

The U.S. Travel Association today projected increases in leisure, business and international inbound travel next year will enable the industry to add 98,800 American jobs by the end of 2013. Leisure travel is expected to rise 1.2 percent, business travel is projected to increase nearly one percent and international inbound travel will increase four percent. These job gains will increase direct travel industry employment to more than 7.6 million jobs next year.

“The focus of this election season has been how to put Americans back to work, and our industry is uniquely capable of adapting to economic upswings and creating jobs,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “Given our industry’s immense potential not only nationally, but also for local and state economies, we call on the Administration and Members of Congress to build a plan for economic recovery that drives significant increases in travel.”

Domestic Travel Overview

Domestic leisure travel is expected to increase 1.2 percent in 2013, a new record high, but the growth will be at a slower pace than during the past few years. While business travel volume will slow significantly next year to less than one percent, the number of business trips has grown steadily since the downturn in 2009 and is expected to see more positive growth in 2014. Total domestic travel spending, including leisure and business travel, will increase three percent.

“While the growth rate is more moderate than in previous years, leisure travel remains at an all-time high and is an indicator of rising consumer confidence,” said David Huether, senior vice president of research and economics for the U.S. Travel Association. “Businesses continue to have a heightened focus on the value and bottom-line benefits of travel. We feel the slight increase in business travel next year continues to reflect demand for face-to-face meetings that drive growth and productivity.”

International Inbound Travel

Total international inbound travel will increase four percent in 2013 while spending will grow 7.1 percent. The importance of global travel to the American economy continues to increase with international travelers now accounting for 15.1 percent of total travel spending in the U.S., up from 14.3 percent in 2011.

Overseas travel to the U.S. (excluding Canada and Mexico) will grow 4.3 percent, a slight decrease from last year’s growth of 4.8 percent. While the numbers continue to trend upward, any slowdown in travel growth is of concern because overseas travelers contribute significantly more to the U.S. economy, spending an average of $4,300 per trip.

The U.S. Travel Association’s industry forecast can be viewed here.

Washington Tourism Summit a Succees

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.