Olympia, WASH. – The impending closure of the Washington State Tourism office by the end of the current biennium has brought tourism industry stakeholders together to create a new, statewide destination marketing organization called the Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA).

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

WTA supporters include: Washington Lodging Association (WLA); Washington Destination Marketing Organizations Association (WSDMO); Puget Sound Attractions Council (PSAC); Washington Restaurant Association (WRA); Port of Seattle; National Tour Association (NTA); Association of Washington Businesses (AWB); and Washington Economic Development Association (WEDA).

Officers of the WTA represent industry stakeholders who have invested in past statewide tourism marketing and industry advocacy efforts and may have direct investment in, or concern for, Washington State Tourism programs.  They are representatives from key tourism industry segments that include: lodging; destination marketing; attractions; restaurants and ports.

“Much is at stake,” said John Cooper, President of the Washington State Destination Marketing Organization (WSDMO). “Despite multi-billion dollar deficits, many states are proposing to raise their tourism marketing and advertising budgets this year. Michigan’s governor has called for a $25 million tourism ad campaign increase. Connecticut’s governor has called for a $15 million increase. And Minnesota is considering a $2.6 million increase for tourism marketing and promotion.”

“We cannot assume that tourists will just show up on our doorsteps. Tourism is a highly competitive landscape,” said George Schweitzer, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Red Lion Hotels Corporation.  “In 1993, Coloradans cut some $12 million in public funding which effectively closed their state tourism office. Within two years, Colorado lost a third of its U.S. market share, which constituted a loss of $1.4 billion in visitor spending initially and some $2 billion during the following seven years.”

A primary goal of the WTA is to help protect and preserve ongoing state tourism programs and valuable marketing assets accrued by the Washington State Tourism office over many years of operation. The WTA has proposed that it assume the state’s tourism web site, visitor guides, photo and video libraries and other valuable marketing collateral in order to ensure destination marketing momentum.

In addition to a collaborative relationship with state tourism officials, tourism industry leaders have worked closely and collegially during the past four years, establishing the Why Tourism Matters advocacy campaign and lobbying tirelessly for tourism funding in Olympia. Though efforts to save the state tourism office failed, the industry is more united than ever and its leaders are actively engaging support for the new WTA and working to sustain momentum for state tourism marketing.   

 The WTA will host a public Tourism Summit to solicit statewide input on the present and future of state destination marketing activities and how to sustain them. Industry stakeholders are encouraged to register for and attend the summit:

Tourism Summit
March 31, 2011

Hilton Seattle Airport and Conference Center

17620 International Blvd., Seattle, WA  98188

8-9 a.m., Registration/continental breakfast

9 a.m. – Noon, Summit

Online Registration: http://budurl.com/eyja

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. The WTA procures and administers funds for state destination tourism marketing activities and creates and implements a strategic statewide destination marketing plan. www.watourismalliance.com.