By Anthony Anton
I love hospitality. We are welcoming and solution-oriented, constantly finding ways to improve the experience we deliver to guests.
The team here at the Washington Hospitality Association is working on solutions to policy issues that fit the needs of our industry and work for Washingtonians.
During the past several years, we’ve had a string of successes delivering solutions, from workers’ comp reform to privatizing alcohol to, most recently, proactively finding a paid family leave solution.
In 2018, tourism is our association’s No. 1 priority.
This month, we secured an industry-wide win with the passage of a bill that will reinstate a statewide tourism promotion program.
Washington is the only state in the U.S. without a statewide tourism promotion program. We’ve been working to restore funding since 2009.
By comparison, Oregon invests more than $15 million into global sales and marketing. They receive $237 in new visitor spending for every $1 spent, according to Travel Oregon.
Tourism is an absolute return on investment that would provide for more wages, more hours, more jobs for our people, more tax dollars and would generally create a sense of community pride.
Our team has been working to give us the platform to craft our megaphone to talk about Washington’s adventures and indulgences – the strategy of the Washington Tourism Alliance’s draft marketing plan.
And we have great things to shout into a megaphone.
Traveler polls show Washington is recognized for having great restaurants. You see picturesque photos in magazines that show our incredible resorts and bed and breakfasts from the Tri-Cities to Walla Walla to Prosser. When you see “Visit the Northwest,” it almost always features Washington locations.
And yet, when people think of where to visit, the survey numbers show we’re ranked behind Oregon and Idaho.
A state this beautiful should be second to none.
If we had state tourism funding, we could really begin to talk about our beautiful state to the outside world.
We’ll need to work beside destination marketing organizations, visitor and convention bureaus, and tourism promotion areas around the state, as well as our partners in tourism and other industries – and yes, you!
The Washington Hospitality Association will be there to help get it done and recruit the best brains to accomplish it in a way that is measurable and that you can be proud of.
That sense of bonding and trust with the Washington Tourism Alliance, destination marketing organizations and other tourism-related industries is only going to continue and benefit us as we go from securing our funding and permits and laying the foundation to actually building a great tourism-promotion program.
Why does this matter for Tri-Cities?
Rural communities like the Tri-Cities are where we would expect to see the biggest focus of the tourism marketing plan and bump in occupancy rates and revenues.
Occupancy rate is the number of rooms a lodging place has and the number that are full at any given time on average.
The average lodging occupancy rate in Seattle is much higher than it is in the rest of the state.
What this tells you is with Seattle’s investment in its own tourism promotion, its own infrastructure and the buzz around Seattle, rooms have averaged around 62 percent occupancy during the course of a year.
It’s the rural Washington communities that are at 40 percent occupancy in their lodging businesses.
Every time someone stays in a hotel room in the Tri-Cities, they spend money in our restaurants, in our retail stores and on our local experiences. And by doing so, they provide for wages, more hours and good jobs for our people, as well as more tax dollars and generally create a sense of community pride.
The world sees Seattle when they watch the Seahawks games on TV. Different shows that are based in Seattle show the skyline.
We need to add to that and show travelers the beauty of the Columbia River, the bounty of wine country and all they can explore around Southeast Washington.
We have a great story to tell. We don’t have the megaphone to tell it.
It is in our industry’s nature to find solutions to problems facing our communities.
Today we’re celebrating. We worked to give our community a platform to talk about why travelers need to come to Tri-Cities for great local, personal experiences.
Now it’s time to open the door and say, “Welcome to Washington hospitality.”
Anthony Anton is president and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association.
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