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

New Spirits and Hops Website Helps Visitors Navigate Yakima Valley Breweries, Cideries and Distilleries

Spirits and Hops Trail beer glassThe Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau has launched the Spirits and Hops Trail website to help visitors and residents easily navigate the growing number of local craft breweries, cideries and distilleries throughout the region.

In the last five years, the region has welcomed three new breweries, three distilleries and the largest producer of hard artisan cider in the state. The new site provides information and online mapping capabilities for these new businesses, and other tasting destinations throughout the Yakima Valley, including restaurants that feature locally crafted adult beverages.

The Yakima Valley is the top agricultural region in Washington state. In addition to growing 40 varieties of crops, the Valley produces 78 percent of the nation’s hops. For decades, commercial and craft breweries across the country and globe have relied on the quality hops grown in the Valley for their products.

Tourism leaders believe this project will complement the thriving wine industry of the Yakima Valley. “Our agricultural heritage is a foundation of our visitor industry,” stated John Cooper, president and CEO of the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau. “It’s only natural that we should celebrate our role in the beer and distillery industries.” Cooper stated the visitors bureau will be marketing the site through a number of media channels, publicity and outreach to special interest groups.

The website also contains a history of the hops industry, a blog with guest authors and a calendar of events of interest to beer, cider and spirits enthusiasts.


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.

Photo With Share Your Washington Sign

You may have heard about the Share Your Washington campaign to attract visitors to the state, and have wondered, ‘where can I get my picture with that sign’?  Come to the sunny side of the state in the Yakima Valley and we’ll set you up!

Stop in at the Yakima Visitors Information Center just off I-82 in Yakima (visit website for directions and hours of operation). The friendly staff there will help you pose with the sign in our beautiful Tuscan themed visitors center.

The Share Your Washington promotion encourages everyone to invite their loved ones to visit Washington, while also entering into a sweepstakes for the chance to win airfare on Alaska Airlines.

Entering is simple. Visit to send electronic postcards to friends outside the state, which automatically enters the sender into the sweepstakes.  The Share Your Washington postcard will also include special deals and discounts for the visitor, such as chances to win a local getaway, shopping discounts or special rates at local hotels. One of the postcards is of wine vineyards in the Yakima Valley.

Take the fun a step further and post your Share Your Washington pictures to the official Facebook page and be sure to follow them on Twitter @shareyourwa.

Help create new jobs and build our local economies. Invite your friends and family to visit.

Legends Casino Hotel Groundbreaking

Responding to increasing competition and a long-held dream, Yakama Nation officials broke ground today on their $90 million expansion to expand Legends Casino.  Construction is slated to begin in July and is expected to be complete by September 2012

Plans include a 200-room hotel, convention and banquet hall, new parking garage, restaurant,  swimming pool, spa, additional slot machines plus a bingo hall. Tribal officials expect the new addition will create at least 150 permanent new jobs, not including construction.

Opened 13 years ago, Legends Casino currently employs 670 people.

“This addition will greatly enhance more employment opportunities for the members of the Yakama Nation while giving our visitors a new and exciting attraction,” stated John Cooper, President and CEO of the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau. “We look forward to working with the Nation to make this venture a great success.”

Tourism Survivor- Annual Lunch

With the state of the economy lately, it’s like a jungle out there.  As with any industry, everyone has had to work harder, be stronger and maneuver around the competition to survive… but survivors we are!

The Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau will host our Annual Lunch and Encore! awards on May 19, 2011. This year we are going with a Tourism Survivor theme.  Be transported to Tourism Island, and find out how the tribe has spoken for the 2011 Encore! award recipients, including Tourism Person of the Year and Tourism Business of the Year.

Special Guest speaker is John Curley, former anchor of Evening Magazine in Seattle.  John swears he doesn’t deserve the life that he has, and believe that if karma does exist he will be coming back in the next time around as a dung beetle.  Before that happens John has much work to do. He hosts his radio show on KIRO 97 point 3 weeknights from 7 to 10 pm. He serve as an elected official in the city of Sammamish as a city councilman.   In his spare time Curley competes in International Ironman competitions and travels the country as a motivational speaker.  He wears many hats and has many titles but likes best when two very small people, that look a little bit like him call him dad.  His presentation starts with Mr. Curley being thrown off a 700 foot building and ends with the attendees super charged and ready to take on new challenges.

When: May 19, 2011

Where: Yakima Convention Center, 10 North 8th Street Downtown Yakima

Registration: 11:45 am

Lunch & Awards: 12:00 pm

Ticket: $25 / person or $250 per table

             $30 at the door

Purchase Your Tickets by May 17th

Call (509) 575-3010 or email Barbara. 

Be there…the tribe has spoken!

Sponsors: Fairfield Inn & Suites, Yakima Federal Savings and Loan; Oxford Suites; Terril, Lewis & Wilke Insurance; Horizon Distribution Inc.  and Allied Insurance.

Official Yakima Valley Visitors Guide

The recognized Visitors Guide for the Yakima Valley and Yakima County has hit the streets and is doing its job. Since the guide came out a couple of months ago the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau has been busy getting it in the hands of visitors, convention attendees, relocation parties and locals. We utilize an extensive distribution service throughout Washington State and into Oregon Visitor Information Centers, Chambers of Commerce, attractions, etc.

Guides are sent as fulfillment for direct inquiries from the Internet, telephone, walk in, advertising, email and regular mail. To date, 9,520 guides have been mailed all over the U.S., plus have been shipped to AAA offices in Washington, Oregon and Canada.  Likewise, we take the guides to all the trade and consumer shows we attend.

Locally, the Guide is available at hotels, motels, restaurants, attractions, member businesses plus is available for download on the VCB’s website.

So stop on by the Yakima Visitors Center for your copy and discover the Yakima Valley!

Walter Clore Center Receives Grant

A $2 million Public Works Grant was awarded by the Federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) to co-applicants Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center (WCWCC) and Port of Benton (POB) last week. The grant award represents the final capital required for construction of the $4 million Center.   The building design process will begin immediately with construction scheduled for 2012.

The Clore Center site, located in southeastern Washington State adjacent to I-82 at Exit 82 overlooking the Yakima River, was chosen because of Prosser’s distinction as the home of the largest irrigated agricultural research center in the United States (WSU-IAREC) where the late Dr. Walter J. Clore began his research in 1937 on small fruits and wine grapes.

Through a joint operating agreement, the Port will oversee construction and own the building.  The WCWCC, a non-profit organization named after Dr. Clore, will operate the Center to promote the quality and diversity of Washington State wine and food through education and hands-on experiences.  Designed to complement its natural surroundings, the conceptual 15,000 square foot building and grounds will offer several indoor and outdoor venues including a tasting room, demonstration kitchen, agriculture and viticulture exhibits, classrooms, conference rooms, office space, retail shop, instructional vineyards, interpretive and production gardens and a walkway along the Yakima River.  Fundraising to finance these fundamental assets in addition to furniture, fixtures and equipment is on-going.      

The WCWCC will have a positive impact on Washington State’s wine and agricultural industries through education, increased product and brand awareness, job creation and stronger economies for agriculturally-based communities across the state.  Increased product demand is expected to result in the creation of 69 direct jobs in the wine industry and additional indirect jobs in the wine and agriculture sectors within a five year period.

Currently, the Washington State agriculture and food economic sector is a $38 billion industry that commercially produces more than 300 commodities. The State ranks number one in the United States for production of ten commodities including apples, potatoes, cherries, hops and grapes.

Washington state is home to more than 700 wineries and 350 wine grape growers, contributing $3 billion to the state’s economy and supporting 19,000 Washington jobs.  “The Clore Center will promote Washington agriculture and wine production while also being a tourism draw,” stated John Cooper of the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau.

An Outdoor Event Facility, a satellite building to the main Center, will open May 2011. The 2,400 square foot facility will include indoor and outdoor assembly areas, catering kitchen, office space, rest rooms and a storage area.

The Center is a partnership integrating resources and expertise of Federal Housing and Urban Development,  Washington State Department of Commerce, Port of Benton, Benton County, City of Prosser, Prosser Economic Development Association, Hanford Area Economic Investment Fund Committee, Washington State University, Washington Wine Commission, private companies and individuals over the last six years.

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Share Your Washington!

Who do you want to visit you this summer? How about your mother, your best friend, or your nieces and nephews? Now is your chance to invite them to experience the Yakima Valley and all of Washington, with the launch of Washington State Tourism’s “Share Your Washington” promotion.

Created in partnership with the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau and destinations around the state,  Washington residents can send their family and friends a special Share Your Washington invitation online at

Running from now through June 15, the Share Your Washington promotion encourages Washingtonians to invite their loved ones to visit, while also entering into a sweepstakes for the chance to win airfare on Alaska Airlines.

Entering is simple – residents of Washington visit to send electronic postcards to friends outside the state, which automatically enters the sender into the sweepstakes.  The Share Your Washington postcard will also include special deals and discounts for the visitor, such as chances to win a local getaway, shopping discounts or special rates at local hotels. One of the postcards is of wine vineyards in the Yakima Valley.

“Tourism is Washington’s fourth largest industry, and our local economies depend on travelers to support local jobs and businesses,” said John Cooper, President of Washington State Destination Marketing Organizations Association (WSDMO). “The Share Your Washington program allows residents to make a difference in helping support their local tourism economies. If we all get one person to visit, we could help create 20,000 Washington jobs.”

In 2010, travelers spent $15.2 billion in Washington, according to the recently released Washington State Travel Impacts Study, making 2010 the second best year on record for the state. Visitor spending generated nearly $1 billion in tax revenue and supported 143,800 jobs.  In Yakima County, visitors spend $311 million a year and support 3,370 jobs.

For more information about Share Your Washington, and to invite a friend to visit Washington, visit or

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Washington Tourism Summit a Success

Yesterday I attended the Tourism Industry Summit  sponsored by the newly formed Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA). More than 460 people were in attendance from all over the state. The event recapped where things stand with statewide tourism efforts and where things could go in the future, including what happens with the various existing assets of the state like the tourism website. Guest speakers included Mike Gallagher of CityPASS in California, and Ron Peck, with the Alaska Travel Industry Association. They gave great advice on how the Washington tourism industry should advance its efforts.

Participants were encouraged to join WTA as individuals, businesses or founding partners (which generated $31,650 in pledges that morning!)  In addition, the Port of Seattle has pledged $150,000 to WTA. Combined with support from the Yakima Valley VCB, other state VCBs, WSDMO, WA Lodging Association, Red Lion Hotels and the Puget Sound Attractions Council there is now about $221,650 pledged or in hand to help WTA jump start the long process of establishing a new statewide tourism program and organization.

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.  WTA has a goal of procuring and administering funds for statewide tourism marketing activities and to create and implement a strategic destination marketing plan.  WTA may establish both voluntary and legislated funding sources, however, the goal is to have marketing strategy and implementation be overseen by the statewide tourism industry organizations rather than by state government.

At the summit there was also an introduction to the Share You Washington spring campaign State Tourism has been developing that will launch in the middle of this month, so stayed tuned for that announcement.

Summit organizers video tapped the session so that link will be provided soon. Three features about the summit to review: Carol Pucci’s column in the Seattle Times, Steven Goldsmith’s column in the Puget Sound Business Journal and the online news source Crosscut.

Though it is disappointing that the State Tourism Office will no longer be funded after June 30th, I am proud that the industry is coming together to plan for the future. Tourism matters to our communities and our economy.

John Cooper

President and CEO

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