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