State tourism plan could help communities throughout Washington

Wenatchee's Shiloh Schauer testifies in Olympia on Jan. 25 in support of HB 1123, which would establish the Washington State Tourism Marketing Authority.

OLYMPIA- The House Committee on Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs held a public hearing on House Bill 1123, which addresses state tourism marketing.

Washington state used to have a state tourism marketing program, but ended it in 2011. House Bill 1123 would create the Washington Tourism Marketing Authority, which would manage a multi-year state-wide tourism plan.

12th District Rep. Cary Condotta testified in support of the bill saying, “It’s a state-wide issue, it’s really something that could help everybody.”

Condotta emphasized that Washington state is the only state who does not have a state-wide marketing organization.

Funding for the Washington Tourism Marketing Authority would reallocate retail sales tax and pull 0.1 percent of revenue from lodging, car rentals and restaurants, totaling $5 million over two years.

Several tourism agencies from around the state testified in support of the bill.

“This program will be industry led, and it is not creating a new department or office,” said Becky Bogard with the Washington Tourism Alliance. “It also does not include any new taxes.”

Josh McDonald with the Washington Wine Institute said wine tourism helped put Walla Walla on the map.

“Walla Walla is known as one of the worldwide tourist destinations for wine,” McDonald said. “It is a great story of how our industry can bring tourists and tourist dollars into our state. I think it can do a tremendous amount of good for our local, rural economies.”

Wenatchee was well represented at the public hearing by Shiloh Schauer with the Wenatchee Valley Chamber, showing support for the program that would also focus on tourism areas hit by natural disasters.

“As you may be aware, we have had some significant natural disasters in our area,” Schauer said. “It’s really important that we have a partner at the state level to help get our community’s message out. We’ve had some great tourism partners in Chelan County.”

Schauer referenced Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mike Steele’s efforts last summer after the Chelan Complex Fire.

“Your colleague, now representative Mike Steele lead a tremendous campaign in his community after the August wildfires that shut down their tourism industry during their prime month,” Schauer said. “That’s what their community uses to survive year-round is those tourists that come in economically.”

For more information on HB 1123, visit the bill’s page here.