Once again, Washington’s fourth largest industry seeks true support from the state legislature to establish the Washington Marketing Tourism Authority and a public-private funding mechanism to promote tourism in Washington. Momentum has been building for years and this morning’s hearing on the bill in the Senate Economic Development & International Trade committee was supportive of the bill and hopeful that, after more than five years with zero state dollars invested in funding tourism marketing, this might be the year it finally passes.
Chairwoman Senator Maralyn Chase (32nd District of Edmonds) asked of Becky Bogard,* whether the State supports this industry in a manner comparable to its support of the others in the top five industries in our state. The response was a simple and true, “No.” Moreover, Washington has no tourism marketing organization (DMO) while every other state in the country does. Our neighboring states’ tourism marketing budgets ranged from $31.25 million (Oregon) to $64.5 million (California) in 2017.
This current bill would create a statewide marketing authority with direction to focus on:
- Tourism as a force for economic development in rural areas
- Outdoor recreation showcasing our beautiful state
- Bringing international tourists into Washington
The funding of the Washington Tourism Marketing Authority would be primarily led by private industry with a 2:1 match in dollars. In other words, the proposed funding mechanism would function so that for every $2 deposited into the marketing fund by private industry, the Legislature may authorize a deposit of $1 in state funds. As a result, when the funding mechanism is in full operation, the State’s investment of $5 Million is a match to private industries prior investment of $10 Million. This investment by the State would be well-spent. Studies, cited in the testimony this morning, show that every $1 spent on tourism in Washington returns $2.50 to $20 in state taxes.
A statewide marketing agency will promote rapid economic development in rural areas. Shiloh Schauer the Economic Development Organizations Representative of the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce testified that economic development is also about economic resiliency. A tourism marketing authority and funding that authority would help rural areas, among other ways, to respond to the national media coverage of natural disasters that overwhelm any regional or county level marketing aimed at letting tourists know that it is still safe and rewarding to visit an area.
If you support Washington’s tourism, contact your state senator and representatives and let them know your views on Senate Bill 5251. You can locate the names and contact information of your representatives here.
*Becky Bogard represents the Washington Tourism Alliance, a private non-profit alliance.