The Columbian editorial board supports efforts to create a new marketing strategy to boost tourism in the state. (We wrote about the effort last week.) The editorial reminds readers that Washington is the only state without a publicly funded tourism office. Then, it states,
With tourism ranking as Washington’s fourth-largest industry, accounting for more than $20 billion a year in direct and indirect spending and employing thousands of people, attracting people to the state requires a more concentrated effort. House Bill 1123 and its companion, Senate Bill 5251, would restore state funding for a tourism office by diverting 0.1 percent of retail taxes from lodging, rental cars, and restaurants. That would be expected to generate $5 million per two-year budget cycle without raising taxes. In order to use the sales-tax money, the Washington Tourism Marketing Authority would have to raise matching funds from private and public sources at a 2-to-1 ratio.
In our foundation report we noted,
Elimination of funding for the state tourism agency in 2011, for example, negatively impacted the hospitality and retail industry and the taxes they generate. Washington is now the only state without a funded state tourism agency, a loss that has been particularly hard on communities outside the Seattle metro area.
The Columbian editorial concludes,
To that end, the marketing authority would be tasked with promoting tourism throughout the state but emphasizing visitor-dependent rural counties along with recreational opportunities…
That is a worthy goal that can benefit cities and counties that often find themselves in the shadow of Seattle, and it should be viewed as a worthy investment that will pay dividends. Because sometimes you need to spend some money in order to make money.
In a tight budget year, every dollar matters. Yet, if proponents are correct, this may be an expenditure with a positive ROI. Worth watching.