Dear Seattle Southside Business Associates,
As you know, our state is facing a dramatic drop in anticipated revenue for the remainder of this fiscal year and the next biennium. The excruciatingly slow economic recovery and the outcome of several tax initiatives decided on the November ballot combined to make the most recent revenue forecast significantly worse than expected. The state must reduce planned and budgeted expenditures to balance a $1.1 billion shortfall for the 2011 fiscal year and fill an additional $4.6 billion gap for 2011-2013. This Wednesday, the governor announced her plan for the 2011-2013 biennial budget.
Along with other unprecedented cuts in many important state programs, Governor Gregoire's proposed 2011-2013 budget, released this week, eliminates General Fund-State funding for Washington State Tourism by the end of fiscal year 2011. As proposed in this version of the budget, Washington State Tourism would cease operation in its current form by June 30, 2011. As of right now, Washington State Tourism plans to continue executing programs that market the state as a whole destination for the remainder of the current fiscal year.
The Department of Commerce, which houses Washington State Tourism, is working with industry leaders, including its tourism commission, “as we speak” to discuss alternative, more stable models for future tourism funding. This is also noted in the budget notes of the Governor’s proposed biennial budget.
Hotels and meeting facilities, attractions, restaurants, cultural institutions, tour companies and transportation providers are among the local businesses greatly impacted by travel to Washington State. Fueled by visitor spending, tourism plays a vital role in economic development for Washington State, serving as the fourth largest export industry and one that supports jobs and local economies. In 2009 alone, visitors to Washington spent more than $14 billion, and 147,600 jobs were directly generated by travel spending.
As the current co-chair of the state tourism commission, I want to assure you Seattle Southside is actively engaged in a meaningful way determined to preserve the recently developed award winning statewide marketing assets including the new brand, website, travel guide, etc. which are critical to sustaining tourism development at the state, regional and local level. As more information becomes available I will update you. I hope I can call upon you, our Seattle Southside business associates, to provide input and guidance as we work through this difficult transition.
I’m confident that, together, we will find a viable and sustainable solution for continued tourism development for Washington. We at Seattle Southside look forward to continuing to serve and partner with you.