Washington Joins Rest of the Country with New Statewide Tourism Program

WA State

OLYMPIA – Washington state is no longer the only state in the U.S. without a statewide tourism marketing program. Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee created a statewide tourism promotion program when he signed the Second Engrossed Fourth Substitute Senate Bill 5251. Passage of this bill was the Washington Hospitality Association’s top legislative priority for the 2018 Legislative Session.

“Today is a major step forward for tourism in Washington, and is a win for the hospitality industry,” said Washington Hospitality Association President and CEO Anthony Anton. “We’re proud to serve our communities, support our workforce and deliver excellent experiences. This is a solid solution to restore this critical funding and attract more visitors to our state, particularly to our small, rural, tourism-dependent communities.”

Passage of the bill has been a multi-year effort led by the Washington Tourism Alliance, the Washington Hospitality Association, and a broad tourism coalition who have worked to keep tourism in Washington state alive. The Washington State Office of Tourism officially closed its doors in 2011 as the state recovered from the effects of the Great Recession.

The bill creates the Washington State Tourism Marketing Authority and redirects 0.2 percent of retail sales tax collected on lodging, restaurants and rental cars to fund the implementation of the statewide tourism promotion program. Under the bill, in Fiscal Year 2019, the tourism authority may receive up to $1.5 million and up to $3 million per biennium from the general fund. The bill also includes an opportunity for a public/private partnership and a two-to-one industry-led match bringing the total funds up to $9 million per biennium.

“We will now be able to create a platform which will allow us to create a marketing promotion program,” said Anton. “We already know all that Washington can offer – now it’s time to show the rest of the country. Our state should be second to no one.”

The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The tourism promotion plan was also included in the final supplemental operating budget. The bill will go into effect in 90 days.

The Washington Hospitality Association is a member-based organization that works at the state and local levels to find proactive solutions to the challenging issues facing the industry and its workforce. It provides its members with programs, services and the information they need to deliver great local experiences, ensure the success of their employees and help their communities thrive. The Washington Hospitality Association became one of the state’s largest trade associations in 2016 when the Washington Restaurant Association and Washington Lodging Association joined forces in a combined association.

Washington’s Hospitality Industry represents the largest group of private employers in the state, and the jobs the industry provides are the backbone of the state’s economy. Local restaurants and hotels employ more than 280,000 Washingtonians and each year, the hospitality industry generates more than $1.1 billion in state sales and Business & Occupation taxes. The hospitality industry is key to the health of our state, the careers of our citizens and the vitality of our communities.

Cheers, Washington!

Photo credit: LSS Photography

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