Tourism is Washington's fourth largest industry. This is reflected in the increasing dollars generated for the economy and the heightened interest local communities have in developing a tourist industry. Some general observations about the characteristics of tourism in Washington counties are presented in Dean Runyan Associates' Washington State, Regional and County Travel Impacts.
This page addresses local planning for tourism, tourism programs of Washington local governments, and mechanisms to finance tourism activities. For information on Lodging Tax (Hotel-Motel Tax) see MRSC page Lodging Tax (Hotel-Motel Tax). The page outlines what you need to know about lodging tax and 2013 legislative changes.
Planning for Tourism
Tourism planning requires strong local support. Communities must be willing to cater to tourists and provide settings and experiences that are attractive to the traveling public. The community should have amenities, attractions, and/or destinations around which to build a tourism strategy. Tourism expert Roger Brooks emphasized the importance of catering to visitors in his remarks at a planning conference:
- Quality is more important than money - but visitors still expect value
- Convenience is mandatory
- Curb appeal is critical: it can be a primary drawing card ... or a detractor
- Quality: accommodations, dining, shopping, attractions
- Pedestrian-oriented activities
- Things to see and do: are they convenient?
- Available visitor services
Tourism - Marketing Plans
Hotel-Motel (Lodging) Tax
The hotel-motel tax or lodging tax is the primary source of funds for tourism promotion. See MRSC page on Lodging Tax (Hotel-Motel Tax). It outlines what you need to know about lodging tax and 2013 legislative changes.
- Ch. 67.28 RCW - Public Stadium, Convention, Arts, and Tourism Facilities - Authorizes municipalities to impose taxes on lodging facilities under this chapter and acquire and operate tourism-related facilities.
Lodging Tax Advisory Committees
For information on the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, the application process, and sample code provisions, see MRSC page on Lodging Tax (Hotel-Motel Tax)
Tourism Promotion Areas (TPA)
A Tourism Promotion Area (TPA) may be established by counties and cities within the county for the purpose of imposing a special assessment on lodging businesses to fund convention and tourism promotion (see Ch. 35.101 RCW - Tourism Promotion Areas). Interlocal agreements are required with each city and community in the proposed TPA
- Pierce County Tourism Promotion Area
- Ordinance No. 2009-110s, Creates Tourist Promotion Area, passed 01/12/2010
- Interlocal agreement – with Tacoma, DuPont, Fife, Gig Harbor, Lakewood, Puyallup, Sumner for the establishment of a Pierce County Tourism Promotion Area
- Seattle Business Improvement Tourism Area
- Seattle to Establish Dedicated Fund for Tourism Marketing, Seattle City News Release, 07/12/2011
- Seattle Ordinance No. 123714 - Establishes a Seattle Tourism Business Improvement Area; levying special assessments upon hotel businesses within the area; providing for the deposit of revenues in a special account and expenditures therefrom; providing for collection of and penalties for delinquencies; providing for the establishment of a Ratepayers Advisory Board, and providing for an implementation agreement with a Program Manager, passed 09/26/2011
- Seattle Southside Tourism Promotion Area - Hoteliers in the cities of Des Moines, SeaTac and Tukwila have proposed the creation of a Tourism Promotion Area (TPA)
- Spokane County Tourism Promotion Area
- Tri-Cities Tourism Promotion Area - Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco
- Richland Municipal Code Ch. 5.36 - Special Lodging Assessment
- Union Gap
- Ordinance No. 2707 - Establishes Union Gap Tourism Promotion Area, passed 02/28/2011
- Union Gap Tourism Promotion Area Management Agreement - Contract to manage operational and administrative activities for the Union Gap Tourism Promotion Area (UGTPA); term is December 1, 2011 until terminated
- Wenatchee Resolution No. 2010-43 - Establishes a tourism marketing area, passed 09/15/2006
- Yakima County Tourism Promotion Area - Yakima, the Selah, Union Gap, and the unincorporated area of Yakima County
- Yakima Municipal Code Ch. 5.99 - Tourist Promotion Area
Local Tourism Programs
The following are a few examples of tourism program information from Washington cities and counties:
- AWC Cityvision, March/April 2012, vol. 4 no. 2, issue on Leisure Time - Several articles: City Beat, and Featured Article on Communities that tout visitor-friendly features attract crucial tourism dollars by Ted Katauskas; CityWise covers branding, special events liability, excellence in a tourism role, and economic development counsel.
- Cowlitz County "The Big Idea" Interlocal Agreement , 2011 and First Addendum 2014, Cowlitz County Regional Tourism Development Partnership Program AKA "The Big Idea" and Tourism Board of Directors, 07/2011 - Agreement with Longview, Kelso, Castle Rock, Kalama, and Woodland
- Kirkland Tourism Program and Explore Kirkland.com - Official Kirkland tourism site
- Moses Lake Visitors - Guide with information on local events, attractions, lodging, etc.
- Port Orchard Tourism
- Whidbey Camano Islands - Island County tourism site
Tourism Advisory Committees
A few cities have created committees to advise on tourism, while others include this function within the focus of an Economic Development Committee.
Cultural and Heritage Tourism
History and culture provide a key opportunity for tourism-related economic development promoters and planners. The educational experience from heritage tourism can be partnered with other tourist attractions. This section provides resources for local governments to use in developing cultural and heritage tourism. It includes local examples of cultural events, tours, and communities that have capitalized on their historic heritage.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation's (NTHP) definition of cultural heritage tourism is "traveling to experience the places and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present. It includes irreplaceable historic, cultural and natural resources." The NTHP identified five principles to guide the combining of heritage and tourism: collaborate; find the fit between a community or region and tourism; make sites and programs come alive; focus on authenticity and quality of experience; and preserve and protect resources. See NTHP Cultural Heritage 2012 Fact Sheet .
Information Resources on Cultural and Heritage Tourism
The following resources provide useful background and guidance on cultural and heritage tourism.
- Cultural Heritage Tourism - A great starting point for information on this topic. A resource for organizations and individuals who are developing, marketing or managing cultural heritage tourism attractions or programs
- Heritage Tourism, National Trust for Historic Preservation
- Cultural Heritage Tourism Alliance - A group of tourism marketing professionals who share the vision and challenge of increasing tourism to communities through the promotion of authentic and unique cultural and heritage offerings
- Cultural Tourism Resources, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies - State arts agency efforts in cultural tourism
Economic Impact of Cultural Tourism
One of the primary benefits of cultural and heritage tourism is the economic impact on a community. While this is difficult to measure, it can be an important element of a local economic development strategy.
Examples of Cultural and Heritage Tourism
The following are a few examples of cultural and heritage tourism promotional materials and activities from communities around Washington State. Some of these are sponsored by chambers of commerce and other local organizations.
Environmental tourism, ecotourism, or nature tourism provides an opportunity to visit undisturbed natural areas, scenic vistas, and to observe plants and wildlife. Washington state offers many opportunities for local governments to promote their natural environments to visitors. While maximizing the economic, environmental, and social benefits from ecotourism, the local environment must be protected. This section provides links to information on how to create and promote a nature tourism destination.
Examples of Sites that Combine Nature and Marketing
The following are selected sites that promote ecotourism in Washington communities:
Information Resources on Nature Tourism
This section includes general information on creating and promoting nature tourism.
- Tool Kits and Agritourism/Nature Tourism Planning Guides, Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, U.S. Department of Agriculture - Links to many useful nature tourism planning guides
- Discover Your Northwest - Dedicated to increasing public appreciation of the rich cultural history and spectacular natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest; includes educational materials for the visiting public
- About Geotourism, National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations - Defines geotourism and addresses sustainability
Economic Impact of Nature Tourism
Sports and Recreation Tourism
This section includes information on sports and recreation tourism. Sports tourism can be an important part of a community's economic development program.
There are many organizations that support the development of sports facilities and local events and encourage activities that will attract tourists and spur economic development.
Economic Impact of Sports and Recreation Tourism
- Economic Benefits of Bicycling in Comprehensive Bibliography of Bicycle Benefit and Cost Research - Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota
- The Economic Benefits of Bicycle and Pedestrian-based Tourism, and the Economic Impacts of Trail Development, National Center of Bicycle and Walking, 20021
- GOLF 20/20 Economic Impact Reports - Golf 20/20 is an initiative of the World Golf Foundation, a nonprofit organization of the golf industry that supports programs to promote and enhance growth of the game of golf worldwide. See Washington State Report, 2010
- Parks Management, MRSC - See Management-Related Topics on Parks Administration Page
- Doing Better: Sports, Economic Impact Analysis, and Schools of Public Policy and Administration, Mark S. Rosentraub and David Swindell, JPAE Messenger National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration, Spring 2009
Economic Impact of Sports Facilities
General Tourism References
Several of the links below address tourism in Washington State.
- Promoting Tourism in Rural America, National Agricultural Library Rural Information Center
- Greening North Carolina Travel and Tourism: Tips for Sustainable Practices in Tourism , Center for Sustainable Tourism, East Carolina University
- Tourism - Chapter 13 in Learning to Lead: A Primer on Economic Development Strategies, Community, Trade and Economic Development (now Department of Commerce), 1999 - Older but still useful
- Travel and Tourism Impact Analysis, Dean Runyan Associates
- Washington Tourism Alliance - Created in 2011 following the announcement of the closure of the Washington State Tourism office
- Why Tourism Matters - Operated by Seattle Visitors and Convention Bureau on behalf of Washington State's core of private sector destination marketing organizations
- Washington Local Chambers of Commerce Directory, Washington Chamber of Commerce Executives
- Tourism Research Links, Centre for Tourism Policy and Research, Simon Fraser University
- Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, U.S. Department of Commerce