We all understand economic challenges, but this latest move is drastic. State tourism is a competitive business; you slow marketing efforts and you slide – close your State Tourism offices and you disappear. Out of sight, out of mind! And, that poor Visitor Experience – devalued.
We understand the old argument of guns versus butter or education for our children versus billboards, even touting the beauty of the Cascades. Where have you been State government? Is this just another sample of malaise and inaction of the stewards of our states? Throw the rascals out. Other States have aggressively sought greater Tourism efforts and have actually increased their Tourism budgets. They all are under severe constraints, too. Goodness, States like California and Michigan are hemorrhaging, but still manage Tourism budgets of $50 million and $25.4 million, respectively. Washington is worried that they may not be able to support their State Tourism Web Site.
The New York Times this week noted that tourism in Washington was on an upswing. “Last year, visitor spending increased 7.4% over 2009…The number of international visitors grew more than 30%, one of the fastest rates in the country.” Most states would love these statistics, yet the Olympia Office is closed. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot! Recall that wonderful expression – a penny wise, a pound foolish.
The home of Microsoft, the Space Needle, Mount Rainier, Starbucks, WESTIN Hotels, the Cascades, Puget Sound – so much to share and promote. A chunk of Visitor splendor just sliding into the Pacific – more State government folly.
The Tourism outreach for Washington has now been delegated to a loose group of tourism related businesses, called the Washington Tourism Alliance. They are in the midst of formulating their Charter, ultimately planning to drive the State Tourism effort in the future – a bit of privatization. Talk about some political intrigue with this launch. You need a seasoned Hospitality Executive to drive this. But, one benefit is that Business knows accountability, unlike the public sector.
The road ahead is very challenging. Washington’s neighbor to the North, British Columbia, Canada, has a budget of just under $50 million for their tourism effort, plus the efforts of State tourism interlopers, like Montana, will only increase – the tourism pie shrinks. We have here an example of strategic shortsightedness but certainly wish for the best for our Hospitality colleagues in Washington. They say summer in Montana is just grand – come explore (but, fly through SeaTac, please)!
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