July 12, 2011
State tourism budget cut hurts economy
The state’s elimination of tourism dollars, also known as economic development, flies in the face of wisdom. Each city is left to its own devices, and surely won’t have the impact that comes from sharing an umbrella with the state’s push for tourism.
Tourism is our state’s fourth largest industry. Visitors spent about $15.2 billion here last year, according to state figures. Yet Washington is now the only state in the nation with no money to spend on self-promotion.
A few states that made similar cuts are upping their marketing budgets again, but have expressed concerns they have already lost market share.
About half of the states are reportedly stepping up their marketing budgets to lure tourists and their vacation-happy wallets, knowing that state and local sales tax revenues get pumped up by all that spending. Isn’t that Washington’s aim, too?
The state budget cut comes just as Issaquah has its eye on getting more tourists to town, pumping up the only real economic development program the city has had in the past 40 years or more. The Issaquah Chamber of Commerce has hired a new staffer to direct a tourism effort that will focus on marketing and improved amenities. The chamber has run the Visitor Information Center since its inception, with support from city funds.
When the economy wins, we all win. Capturing our share of tourism dollars for the state and city helps secure our schools, roads, human service agencies and more.
In the case of Issaquah, tourists often become future residents. Discovering the beauty of the mountains, the lake, the spawning salmon and our pioneer history leads to new families who want to be part of our future. Now that is economic development.