Tri-Cities’ tourism future sparkles with optimism, new leadership

2022 is the year that the Tri-Cities bounced back brighter, bigger and bolder for tourism-related businesses and renewed visitor spending in the Tri-Cities.

Visit Tri-Cities kicked off the year by producing a strategic plan for the Tri-Cities Rivershore Enhancement Council, setting priorities and affirming overarching goals for the council to focus on. At the same time the organization launched a digital Meeting Planner’s Guide to assist professionals researching their host locations after taking a two-year hiatus from booking large groups and gatherings. 

2022 was also the year to restore staffing levels, ramping up as the renewed interest in booking future events was finally re-ignited. Visit Tri-Cities gained a graphic design manager, a public relations and social media manager, and a second convention sales manager.

In the second quarter, Visit Tri-Cities collaborated with the Three Rivers Convention Center; local hotel partners; the cities of Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland; the Ports Benton, Kennewick and Pasco; and other regional sponsors to bring The North America Travel Bloggers Exchange (TBEX) to the Tri-Cities. Attendees were treated to a week of education, entertainment, and events designed to showcase the Tri-Cities’ assets. 

Regional wine, food, culture, history, and outdoor recreation were on display for an international gathering of content creators. The event was a success as referenced by the increased attention online, covering a range of topics and distribution types (Instagram, personal blogs, twitter, Facebook).

The energetic promotion of the Tri-Cities continued into the late spring. In May, Visit Tri-Cities hosted the Washington Tourism Marketing Authority Board meeting. This important group directs funding and provides leadership for Washington State Tourism. It was an honor to be able to introduce and share the Tri-City assets with these tourism professionals.

Early summer found Visit Tri-Cities managing photo shoots and filming for new video assets and digital and print marketing campaigns. The marketing staff will be launching four new campaigns just after the first of the year: girlfriend get-a-ways, Tri-Cities after dark, outdoor recreation and family activities.

Visit Tri-Cities strives to add tourism-focused programs, increasing outreach to new markets, and telling the Tri-Cities’ story to a diverse audience.

Toward that end, Visit Tri-Cities recently launched Tri-IDEAs campaign, an exploration of inclusivity, diversity, equity and accessibility (IDEA) through tourism in the Tri-Cities. The program delivers weekly content to advance IDEA and increase visitation to the Tri-Cities.

To view one of the recent video segments, visit the playlist here:

2022 also has been a successful year for the addition of tourism assets. Columbia Wine Gardens continues to add tenants and expand culinary and wine offerings to the public, while nearby the Public Market at Columbia River Warehouse offers a collection of eclectic products from multiple vendors. The HUB, also in Kennewick, hosts an assorted mix of food trucks on its plaza and is flourishing near Vista Field.

Meanwhile STEM is alive and well in Richland with the grand opening of the visitor center at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, the USS Triton Sail celebration of Operation Sandblast, and Manhattan Project National Historical Park’s prominent placement and inclusion in the 2023 National Park Passport. This month the National Parks Service also designated the Tri-Cities an American World War II Heritage City.

All these accomplishments put the Tri-Cities on the map and create compelling reasons for people to visit from across the nation and from around the world.

In Pasco, the recent improvements at Peanuts Park create a welcoming gathering place for festivals, cultural celebrations and community pride. The addition of new facilities and a covered market area will enhance the Pasco Farmers Market, outdoor concerts, Cinco de Mayo and the Fiery Foods Festival.
And as the year ends, the Visit Tri-Cities Board of Directors recently welcomed a new president and CEO, following the mid-year departure of the previous leader.

Kevin Lewis joined Visit Tri-Cities just in time to kick off 2023 for Tri-Cities tourism.

He hails from St. George, Utah, where he was director of the Greater Zion Convention & Tourism Office. He brings 15 years of destination marketing and outdoor recreation knowledge to his new post.

So, hold on to your hats! With great momentum behind our efforts moving into 2023, the best has yet to come.

Kim Shugart is senior vice president for Visit Tri-Cities.

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