Become an explorer in your own town

National Travel & Tourism Week may have wrapped in early May, but here at Visit Tri-Cities we have reason to celebrate tourism every day.

From our rich history steeped in science to the amazing rivers and outdoor recreation that is only enhanced by our climate to the unique gathering places, our world-class wine, brews and other craft beverages to the farm-to-table dining experiences—the Tri-Cities has so much to offer visitors and residents. We know that for a fact because it is in the numbers.

The State of Washington Tourism, in partnership with Tourism Economics, recently released the 2021 statewide economic impacts of tourism, with all indicators pointing toward economic recovery. Visitors spending reached $17.7 billion, employing more than 205,000 people throughout Washington.

A little closer to home, visitor spending in the Tri-Cities reached $489.3 million during 2021, a 41.8% growth over 2020, another sign of economic recovery in the Tri-Cities. Visitors also generated $51.2 million in state and local taxes. The tax revenue generated by visitors helps fund police and fire, teachers and schools, the maintenance of our roadways and the beautification of our parks and reduces individual Tri-Citians’ household tax burden by over $500.

Not only do we benefit from the economic impact of the industry in dollars and cents, but we also benefit from the quality of life to which it contributes. Tourism is the gateway for enhancing what we love about the Tri-Cities—meaning tourism sustains attractions and amenities we currently have, but also provides opportunities for economic development. In short, tourism matters, and it matters to the Tri-Cities. The visitor economy enhances quality of life that touches every single Tri-Citian.

Additionally, tourism is more than out of town guests enjoying the Tri-Cities, it’s residents supporting our own community. That’s right – when you’re dining at your favorite local restaurant, enjoying a museum, recreating outdoors, attending special events or having a blast at a local attraction – you’re supporting tourism in the Tri-Cities.

We encourage the community to always be explorers in your amazing hometown. Even better, get friends and family in on the action and invite them to visit the Tri-Cities. Act as a local expert and show them your favorite spots around town. There are plenty of amazing upcoming events that can only be enjoyed in the Tri-Cities: the Speedfest Show and Shine, Art in the Park, Tri-Cities Geocoin Challenge, Tri-City Water Follies and Over the River Airshow, just to name a few.

If you’re ever at a loss for what to do, we offer exploration inspiration at or swing by the Visitor Center at 7130 W. Grandridge Blvd., Suite B, in Kennewick to chat with our knowledgeable staff or pick up a free copy of the Tri-Cities Official Visitor Guide.

The attractions and amenities are certainly an important component of tourism. However, the creative and passionate people behind those attractions and amenities who go that extra mile in creating memorable visitor experiences are what sustains the Tri-Cities’ tourism economy. The local business owners, servers, winemakers, restaurateurs, baristas and everyone in the hospitality industry create a Tri-Cities visitor experience worth sharing.

Excellent customer service is more important than ever as we anticipate 2022 being the best year for leisure tourism in the Tri-Cities. Customer service will be just as important to visitors as the attractions and amenities available in our community.

To celebrate amazing customer service, Visit Tri-Cities recently launched the 2022 Excellence in Service program. The annual program recognizes outstanding individuals or businesses who have outstanding customer service and know how to create memorable visitor experiences. One outstanding individual or tourism-related business will receive the Excellence in Service Award, a prestigious acknowledgement that celebrates members of the Tri-Cities tourism and service industry for their ongoing commitment to go above and beyond in providing outstanding customer service.

Kathy Nutt, wine club concierge of Frichette Winery, earned the honor in 2021. Previous winners include The Lodge at Columbia Point, Red Mountain Trails, the Tri-City Dust Devils, Frost Me Sweet and other local tourism-related businesses. If you’ve ever visited any of these businesses, you know that their commitment to providing an enhanced visitor experience is worth celebrating.

Nominations welcome

While you’re out and about in the Tri-Cities this summer, keep an eye out for those standout people and businesses. We look forward to recognizing those individuals and businesses that give the Tri-Cities a competitive edge by providing amazing experiences not just for leisure travel, but for conventions, meetings and sports events. Nominations will be accepted until Sept. 1 and the recipient will be honored at the Visit Tri-Cities Annual Meeting on Nov. 1. The program is proudly sponsored by Battelle, one of the many businesses in the region championing tourism in the Tri-Cities.

To learn more about the Excellence in Service award or to nominate a deserving individual or business, go to:

As we continue down the path of economic recovery, we’re excited and energized to see huge impacts of tourism in the Tri-Cities. We have a wonderful destination, and we look forward to seeing the community rediscover everything we have to offer.

Michael Novakovich is president and CEO of Visit Tri-Cities. He recently announced he is leaving to join Columbia Industries. A search for his replacement has started.

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