With its largely volunteer Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau, our area manages to provide amazing outreach and hospitality services with a minimum of help from Washington state. Even so, it is welcome news that the Legislature is considering a move toward a performance-based statewide tourism-marketing program.
The Peninsula, Pacific County and business owners have long understood the value of telling our story to the outside world and giving visitors a wonderful experience once they get here. While our beaches, national park and other attractions can be counted on to attract tourists — at least in the summer and early fall — prosperous hospitality and retail sectors depend on getting more people here on weekdays and off-seasons.
In “olden times,” marketing efforts used to consist of legendary Long Beach Mayor Fred Rutherford and others generating free publicity in metropolitan news media. In the 1980s and ‘90s, an elaborate schedule of festivals was created, some of which remain healthy today. Creation of a lodging tax supported hiring talented professional managers for the visitors bureau, most recently the excellent Andi Day.
However, our area and all of Washington state’s amazing attractions fight for attention with one arm tied behind our backs since the Legislature’s short-sighted decision to close its tourism office in 2011, making Washington the only state without a statewide tourism marketing program.
While many tourists nevertheless find their way here, our “unilateral disarmament” when it comes to telling the state’s story puts at a disadvantage in supporting our 4th largest industry, one that generates more than $1.8 billion in local and state taxes and 170,500 jobs, according to the nonprofit Washington Tourism Alliance.
Seattle is going to be a popular destination no matter what, but tourism marketing is absolutely vital for outlying areas that require more planning effort to reach. Helping places like ours attract more visitors is one of the best way state leaders can make good on promises to spread prosperity around.
The legislation to do this — HB1123 and SB 5251 — has good bipartisan support, including our own Sen. Dean Takko, D-Longview. “The true wonder of Washington is that with just a two-hour drive in any direction, you can find yourself in a completely different natural ecosystem,” he said. “Establishing a Washington Tourism Marketing Program is win-win, benefiting our small business owners on the shores of coastal towns and expanding our ability to share our distinct cultures and environments with the world.”
You can help by leaving a message for all legislators at 1-800-562-6000. Ask them to please support this plan to get Washington back in the important role of competing for tourism dollars.