The Associated Press reports that a bipartisan group of state legislators, working with the tourism industry, is promoting a new tourism marketing group.
After eliminating the state tourism office in 2011, the Legislature is considering creating a Washington Tourism Marketing Authority to fund and manage resources throughout the state.
The authority, made up of tourism industry officials and legislators, is expected to deposit $5 million into its account every two-year state budget cycle by diverting 0.1 percent of retail taxes from lodging, rental cars and restaurants.
The measure would also allow the private sector to match some of the funding, which would ultimately bring in a total of up to $15 million per biennium to be spent on tourism across the entire state.
In our foundation report, we called attention to the issue.
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 AP story touches on the impact in rural communities.
“We’ve lost opportunities to participate both domestically and internationally with other programs because we don’t have the money at the state level and people to coordinate it,” said Cheryl Kilday, president and chief executive officer of Visit Spokane and chairwoman of the board of the WTA.
The rural communities and counties have experienced the most neglect, Kilday said.
“Tourism doesn’t always affect every place in Washington evenly,” she said.
Legislative supporters of the bill believe it will stimulate additional economic activity.
Rep. Cary Condotta, the sponsor of House Bill 1123, says “it’s time for the state to keep up.”
“If I didn’t think it was going to return two, three or four times as much, I wouldn’t put it out there,” said Condotta, a Republican from Wenatchee. “But I am more than convinced based on the data that it is the best return that we can get.”
Sen. Dean Takko, a Democrat from Longview who is the sponsor of Senate Bill 5251, said he wants to make sure places like Long Beach and other smaller or more rural districts don’t get overlooked.
An issue to watch.