Here are a few facts about Washington that not everyone knows.
- Tourism is the fourth-largest industry in our state.
- Washington is the only state in the U.S. that does not have a robust tourism promotion program.
- Washington’s share of tourism growth has been below the national average for the past four years. We’ve been losing share of the tourism pie – to other states -- since our State Legislature closed the state tourism office in 2011.
Another important fact is this: Today, we are poised to fire up this economic engine again. A bill, HB 1378, has been introduced in the Legislature that would allow our great state to begin telling its story, once more, to travelers across the U.S. and in strategic markets overseas.
When we talk about a tourist, we’re talking about an “imported tax payer.” This might sound a bit mercenary, but think about it: whenever you travel to another city or another state, you’ve just become an imported tax payer, too.
This is why every state – except Washington – has a sustainable funding mechanism to support a state-wide tourism promotion effort dedicated to attracting visitors. Visitor spending directly, and through taxes they pay while visiting, are revenues we all depend upon. Our community would have less retail, fewer restaurants, fewer events, and less money to support important community projects without visitors – they expand our economy and improve our quality of life.
In 2013 (the latest year with economic data available), tourists spent $17.6 billion in Washington. They contributed $1.1 billion in state and local tax revenues. Those are big numbers, to be sure, but closer analysis shows that those numbers aren’t where they should be. Statewide tourism spending – and, therefore, tax revenue and jobs growth – slowed in 2013. It’s expected that our upcoming data will show even less growth for 2014 on a statewide basis. This slower pace has been happening since that dark day in 2011 when the state tourism office was eliminated.
But there is most definitely light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s coming into view quickly. The Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) is making a final push toward re-establishing a robust statewide tourism marketing program. Only this time, it will be different from past state tourism efforts and unlike any in the rest of the country.
Washington tourism industry businesses will support the new non-profit, private tourism effort. All the funding will be generated by the tourism industry itself through assessments and voluntary contributions.
So we are ready to take this very significant, crucial step. We are confident that by telling our story again, we’ll be able to increase travel to Washington. Visitor spending will increase. Jobs will grow. Tax revenues will increase. We’ll gain greater attention from businesses considering relocation. It makes good – no, it makes great – business sense to promote to the world one of our greatest assets: the State of Washington.