OLYMPIA—During the Great Recession, funding ran dry for the state’s tourism board. Now, lawmakers and stakeholders are being appointed to a new statewide tourism authority to boost efforts to bring visitors—and their dollars—to every corner of Washington state.
“Every dollar invested in tourism returns $2.50 to state taxpayers,” said Rep. Cindy Ryu (D-Shoreline), chair of the Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs Committee, where the legislation came through. “I’ve supported this idea for the last three years because tourism creates jobs. Even more importantly, visitors from near and far take their wonderful experiences of our state and become our best possible ambassadors of goodwill.”
House Speaker Frank Chopp recently appointed Rep. Ryu to the 13-member board of the Washington Tourism Marketing Authority, which is composed of four lawmakers (one from each party in the House and Senate) along with nine members of the tourism industry and related businesses.
The new effort is established by Senate Bill 5251, which passed the Senate 49-0 and the House 98-0.
Testimony on the legislation in the Senate included the example of Pacific County, where 52 cents out of every taxable dollar in the county is paid for by a visitor and roughly 30 percent of all jobs are related to tourism.
Under the new law, the tourism authority will focus on a multi-year campaign that focuses on (1) rural tourism-dependent counties, (2) natural wonders and outdoor recreation opportunities in the state, (3) attracting international tourists, (4) identifying local offerings for visitors and (5) assistance for tourism areas hurt by natural disasters.
“This is a smart investment in jobs and the future,” Rep. Ryu said. “It’s a public-private partnership, with two private dollars matching every one dollar in tax revenues from 0.2 percent of the sales tax on lodging, car rentals and restaurants. I believe it will go a long way toward boosting tourism not just in popular destinations like Seattle, but in rural Washington, because part of the legislation focuses on outdoor recreation and areas like wine country in eastern Washington.”