Creating a powerful legacy for a bright future was the theme of the 2015 Visit Tri-Cities annual meeting in November.
[blockquote quote="To say this year was anything other than bigger, bolder, brighter would simply be an understatement." source="Kris Watkins, CEO & president of Visit Tri-Cities" align="right" max_width="300px"]
Speakers praised the accomplishments made during the year, gave a peek ahead into 2016 and celebrated the dedication of the nation’s newest national park, The Manhattan Project National Historical Park.
“To say this year was anything other than bigger, bolder, brighter would simply be an understatement,” said Kris Watkins, Visit Tri-Cities’ president and CEO.
Watkins said after the park’s dedication Nov. 12 the Tri-Cities’ long-term tourism outlook is looking better than ever and that having a national park in the backyard is a game changer for tourism throughout the area.
Watkins said with the opening of three new hotels and reopening of another, 506 guest rooms were added to the market, increasing the number of hotel rooms available in the Tri-Cities by 15 percent over 2014.
Developers have also broke ground on two additional hotels that are scheduled to open in 2016, The Lodge at Columbia Point and a Hampton Inn off Road 68 in Pasco.
“Now consumers have more brands to consider and more reasons to choose the Tri-Cities region as their travel destination. Even with this growth we were able to increase the number of guest rooms sold over the previous year by 8.6 percent,” Watkins said.
Visit Tri-Cities has also grown, with membership standing at 760, making it the second largest destination marketing organization in the state.
The Port of Pasco, with Visit Tri-Cities, TRIDEC and other community organizations, was also successful in landing a direct flight between Los Angeles and Pasco.
“This time next year, I expect we’ll be welcoming business and leisure travelers flying in directly from Southern California to enjoy our new national park, the wineries, sports and interpretive center,” Watkins said.
The meeting’s keynote speaker was Chip Jenkins, acting director, National Park Service, Pacific West Region. Jenkins said creating a new national park is a momentous event for the National Park Service and for the nation.
“Many people believe national parks are created by the National Park Service,” Jenkins said. “But the reality of it is that parks are created as the result of hard work by dedicated people who have long-term vision and a tremendous amount of tenacity.”
He praised the B Reactor Museum Association for its role in helping create the park.
“They’re the ones who led the charge, who never gave up,” he said.
Visit Tri-Cities also elected new board members and honored individuals and businesses that helped promote Tri-City tourism in 2015 to an extraordinary level.
Five new board members were unanimously elected: Christine Brown of Townsquare Media; Shae Frichette, Frichette Winery in Benton City; Maynard Plahuta of the B Reactor Museum Association; Justin Raffa of the Mid-Columbia Mastersingers; and Rob Roxburg of Washington River Protection Solutions.
Excellence in Service Awards were presented to Monica Hammerberg, general manager of the Pasco Red Lion and to the Tri-Cities Dust Devils.
Tourism Champion of the Year awards were presented to Colleen French, Gary Petersen, Maynard Plahuta and Pam Larsen, who all worked to promote B Reactor and town of White Bluff tours.
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