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Travel news, consumer advice and trip reports for the Northwest and beyond.

March 12, 2013 at 11:27 AM

They like us, sort of: Washington tourism grows slowly

First, the good news.  Washington tourism grew in 2012.  The bad news?  It lagged behind the national increase in tourism.

At the 'Gum Wall" near Seattle's Pike Place Market,  Jean Yang gets a helping hand from Ankur Dhar adding another wad to the offbeat attraction in Post Alley. Both are seniors at University of California in Berkeley visiting with more friends from college who read about the tourist attraction in a guidebook. (Photo by Alan Berner, The Seattle Times.)

At the ‘Gum Wall” near Seattle’s Pike Place Market, Jean Yang gets a helping hand from Ankur Dhar adding another wad to the offbeat attraction in Post Alley. Both are seniors at University of California in Berkeley who read about the tourist attraction in a guidebook. (Photo by Alan Berner, The Seattle Times.)

And tourism matters since it brings lots of money into Seattle and the rest of the state.  Really a lot. Visitors spent about  $16.9 billion in Washington in 2012,  according to the Washington Tourism Alliance which is holding a state tourism summit Tuesday in Olympia.

In 2012, Washington tourism grew by about 2.1 percent from the previous year, with visitors spending about  $ 16.9 billion, according to the WTA.  For U.S. tourism overall there was a 5.2 percent increase.

That difference in the numbers does not make the Washington Tourism Alliance happy. The industry group stepped in to advocate Washington as a  destination after the state closed its tourism office several years ago because of budget woes, essentially abandoning tourism marketing.

“Despite some incremental growth, we worry that tourism in Washington is not keeping pace,” said Louise Stanton-Masten, the WTA executive director, in a statement Tuesday. “It’s critical that we address our competitive disadvantage to Oregon, Idaho, Montana, California – and every other state for that matter – all of which boast dramatically larger tourism marketing budgets and are poised to capture our share of the lucrative tourism market.”

Some of those Western states  have annual budgets of $10 million to $60 million, said the WTA.  And to the north, the province of British Columbia  has generously-funded marketing agencies.  The WTA, meanwhile, has an annual budget of less than $500,000, said David Blandford of VisitSeattle.

Other Western states and B.C. are  spending  – on  advertising and tourist information services -  to get people to come play and drop significant amounts of money on hotels,  restaurants and sightseeing.  Will tourists increasingly pass over Washington, lured elsewhere  by more and better  marketing?

0 Comments | More in Tourism industry | Topics: Washington, Washington state tourism, Washington Tourism Alliance

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