As the leading destination marketing and management organization serving the southern portion of Washington’s King County, the Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority has been due for a comprehensive update to its previous 5-year strategic plan (2016 – 2021). However, the organization, which contractually serves the cities of Des Moines, SeaTac, and Tukwila, underwent significant change over the final two years of its 2016 – 2021 strategic plan as the pandemic’s impact on business volume and mix was still in recovery mode. Additionally, a change within the CEO position and new staff brought new ideas and initiatives that would impact the direction of the organization. For these reasons, the organization and its stakeholders agreed to pause on implementing a new strategic plan in 2022 until the region began recovering from the pandemic and while new staff and leadership assessed the best way to move forward in a changed landscape.
The strategic planning process—in partnership with Clarity of Place—included carefully selected steps to gather and analyze information and input needed for building the organization’s direction, including the following steps:
1. Assessing Community Alignment
2. Conducting Stakeholder Engagement
3. Benchmarking Competitive Analysis
4. Reviewing Industry and Travel Trends
5. Discovering Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats (SWOT) Insights
6. Developing Strategies & Tactics
The Seattle Southside RTA collaboratively involved its industry stakeholders throughout this process, including hotels, attractions, and venues, city partners (including regular updates to legislative committees and multi-departmental representation), its competitors across other Washington State destinations who provided input on trends in their own areas, its business community, and the Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce.
The applied leadership, particularly during the months of the strategic planning process, showed clear evidence of the true vision and commitment of this organization. Over the course of the planning process, the RTA team continued to strategically and successfully deliver programming and service enhancements to meet the needs of its community partners and industry members. During this time of transition, the organization embarked on refreshing the Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority brand and image—Explore Seattle Southside was born in late 2022.
From Explore Seattle Southside CEO, Mark Everton, “I joined the Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority as CEO just as we were navigating the end of the pandemic. Together, with staff and the valuable input of our communities’ stakeholders, we began rethinking the way people travel and how we could embark on a new strategic direction in 2023 and beyond. Explore Seattle Southside needs to execute on the best ways that the organization could contribute to the success our business and city partners.”
Notable Achievements to Date
Initiatives implementation as a result of the strategic planning process:
1. Changed its operational name to Explore Seattle Southside
2. Launched a new organizational brand design built around microadventures
3. Rebuilt the primary promotional website – SeattleSouthside.com
4. Maintained marketing campaigns and launched new promotional campaigns
5. Engaged local destination partners to participate in innovative cooperative business development programs
6. Invested in new research and market intelligence tools that our partners can access
For more on these and other notable achievements, see the Explore Seattle Southside 2022 Annual Report to the Community: https://www.seattlesouthside.com/about/what-we-do/annual-reports/
Three Pillars of Focus
The Strategic Plan’s direction builds on the strategic context of the organization’s mission and vision by focusing on three specific areas:
1. Increase off-season travel
2. Extend peak season length of stay
3. Advance the region’s brand
Each strategic area includes recommendations that will be addressed through annual work plans by the departments and team members at Explore Seattle Southside. Those annual tactical steps and associated schedules allow Explore Seattle Southside to drive a realistic implementation approach with the ability to adapt as future needs and opportunities arise.
To view the Strategic Plan in its entirety, visit: https://www.seattlesouthside.com/about/what-we-do/strategic-plan/