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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Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau Changes Name

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.

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

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 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.

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

The Travel and Tourism Industry: We Create Memories

NTTW13_V_4C_jpgThink back to your fondest memories. Chances are that many revolve around a trip or journey. Your first breathtaking view of the Grand Canyon as a young child. Seeing Abraham Lincoln perched on his chair as you walk up the steps of his memorial in Washington D.C. Maybe it’s just time spent with family or loved ones as you explore a new place together. Cherished moments.

Sure vacations have their mishaps. A missed plane, an illness in a foreign country, a feeling of desperation with language barriers. But even these set-backs can be life enriching through lessons learned and stories to tell.

This week those of us in the travel and tourism industry celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week. Mostly we trumpet what this amazing industry means to our country from an economic view point. It is substantial. According the U.S. Travel Association, travel generates $2 trillion for the U.S. economy and supports nearly 15 million American jobs. Travel contributes more than $129 billion in federal, state and local taxes. Here in the Yakima Valley visitors spend in excess of $350 million each year and support more than 3,500 local jobs.

But I think that travel offers something even more important. It’s a force for helping all of us to learn from other cultures, to be more understanding of the people and issues that shape our world. To connect with people. I remember a business trip I took to Haiphong, Vietnam, a few years back. During free time, our group wandered into the streets near our hotel. In no time I became separated from the others and I lost my bearings in the narrow, congested streets. A street vendor who had approached me earlier to buy post cards realized I was lost. He guided me back to the main boulevard within sight of the hotel, never asking for anything in return. He just smiled and pointed at the hotel. I bought a packet of his post cards and have them framed in my home. Needless to say that simple gesture helped to shape my view of Haiphong.

While the travel and tourism industry contributes substantially to the economic well-being of our communities, its fundamental mission is to serve our guests and to help them to have wonderful, life enriching experiences. In essence, the job of this industry is to help create memories.

John Cooper
President & CEO

Yakima Valley Washington Launches Travel Campaign

Barrett4-20-12aTo boost Spring travel to Washington’s Yakima Valley, the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau (YVVCB) launched a marketing campaign today to attract leisure travelers. “We get many visitors to the Valley each spring for sports tournaments and conventions,” stated John Cooper President & CEO. “This project is aimed to lure visitors here for wine touring, outdoor recreation, food and cultural events.”

The YVVCB has created a “Find Spring” campaign website that includes a range of spring events and attractions. It also has purchased advertisements in regional media and built online campaigns to attract visitors and increase web traffic.  Examples include participating in a Seattle Metropolitan’s email campaign sent to their 21,000 subscribers, a getaway drawing on ScenicWA.com that is sent to their 35,000 subscribers, exposure on Sunset.com and an email campaign to the YVVCB’s 8,500 online subscribers.

A major feature of the project is a sixty second radio commercial airing on Seattle radio stations that comically pokes fun at the rain in the Puget Sound and that the Yakima Valley is a sunny get-away. The spot will air 540 times through mid-May and will be supported with on-air promotional giveaways. Radio stations include Star 101.5, KOMO News, ESPN and KIRO radio.

Discover the Yakima Valley “Find Spring” website by clicking here. 

2013 Official Yakima Valley Visitors Guide Published

2013VguideCvrThe 2013 Yakima Valley Official Visitors Guide™ has been released. The full-color, 56-page guide covers the communities, events, attractions in the Yakima Valley, from Red Mountain to White Pass. It is a free publication of the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau.

“What’s different about this guide is that everything was designed to have consistency in look and appearance,” stated John Cooper, President & CEO of the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau. “From the advertisements to the community listings the design flows well. It reads more like a travel magazine than a typical visitors guide.”

The publication includes information and maps on the area’s wineries, produce stands and farmer’s markets, local heritage, festivals, outdoor adventure, dining, lodging, museums, the arts, entertainment, shopping, relocation and more.

To receive a free issue of the 2013 Yakima Valley Official Visitors Guide™ call (509) 575-3010, toll free (800) 221-0751, e-mail info@visityakima.com or stop by the Yakima Valley Visitors Information Center at 101 North Fair Avenue, off Interstate 82 in Yakima.  A digital version is available at www.visityakimavalley.org.

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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.

Building Wine Tourism in Yakima Valley Washington

Wine tourism is an important part of the tourism brand for the Yakima Valley.  The Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau (VCB) recently implemented a series of projects to build wine tourism for the Valley and beyond. Here are a few examples:

  • The Yakima Valley and Tri-Cities VCBs took over managing the Washington Wine Country regional branding organization.This organization brands and markets the region from Yakima to Walla Walla, where more than 90% of Washington’s wine grapes are grown
  • The Yakima Valley VCB took the lead to get the ‘case of wine flies free’ on Alaska Airlines program (Taste and Tote) expanded from Walla Walla. Now Alaska customers can check a case of wine free from the Yakima, Tri-Cities and Walla Walla airports.
  • In partnership with those communities and dozens of businesses we promoted the Taste and Tote program through table tents, in-flight and consumer magazines, travel and lifestyle media plus social media channels. The media exposure alone reached nearly nine million readers and yielded more than $54,000 in media value.
  • We also redesigned and promoted our VCB wine tourism micro-website. It includes an interactive wine map, events, winery listings, suggested tasting routes, AVA information, wine country history and more. It and other sites of the VCB were made mobile ready for smart phones.
  • We launched Winedoggies.com, a new website for visitors traveling with their dogs.  Highlights include a ‘doggie bloggie’ hosted by a local dog, an interactive map of around 50 dog-friendly businesses, Twitter account plus a section where guests can add pictures and stories of their dogs enjoying our region. The Western Association of CVBs awarded the bureau a Best Idea Award for the site in the 2012.
  •  Our multi-channel marketing campaigns had a strong wine and culinary focus. In the spring we ran a radio campaign on Seattle radio stations. It reminded folks on the ‘wet side’ of the state that the sun does shine and that there are many reasons to visit our wine country. It was a finalist for the national Radio Mercury Awards. To hear the radio spot click http://budurl.com/FindSpring
  •  In November 2012 we launched Sip, Ski and Savor, a winter campaign that included wine related events and other activities. A focus of the campaign was a weekend getaway contest. Since the program launched, we’ve seen a 25% increase in web visitors, 1,500 requests for information, and 2,000 new Facebook fans.
  • We had a busy year working with the media to place features on the Valley. Many of these had a focus on wine related events and attractions. Stories were placed in National Geographic Traveler, San Francisco Chronicle, Bend Bulletin, Wine Enthusiast, Seattle Magazine, Sip Northwest and many other outlets. Our efforts resulted in 95 travel media articles with an advertising value exceeding $1.56 million in value. For samples check our Yakima Valley in the News section of our website.
  • Underlying our marketing and advertising was a coordinated social media strategy across a variety of platforms.

The end result has been a greater awareness of the Yakima Valley and Washington Wine Country as a wine and culinary destination and more visitors.