Although tourism is one of the largest industries in the state of Washington, local authorities have decided to cut all funding and all support to market it as a travel destination. This week will mark the end of all tourism marketing activities and the shut down of the official tourism agency in charge of promoting state attractions.
While other states are increasing their marketing efforts to keep attractive travel spending to their state, Washington decided to to the exact opposite, after previously cutting down its tourism marketing budget, going from 7 million US dollars spent annually, to a 2 million annual budget. Tourism is the state’s fourth largest industry, with visitors having spent about 15.2 billion US dollars in 2010 alone.
“What Washington has done puts that state on an island,” Geoff Freeman, executive vice president of U.S. Travel Association, told the Associated Press. “No state at this point in time has been, with all due respect to Washington, as short-sighted as those leaders have been.”
Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt, a member of the comission that oversees the state’s tourism strategy, explained that the halt put on any form of support for tourism marketing was an unfortunate consequence of current economic troubles.
The US Travel Association provided data showing half of states are decreasing their tourism marketing budget, while the other half are pumping more money into promoting their attractions and driving more tourists to them. At the same time, a new public-private partnership approved by Congress will focus on attracting international tourists to generate more travel spending from foreign visitors. Some states are even taking the endeavor of attracting foreign visitors in their own hands, California being a good example. They are now targeting Chinese travelers through dedicated marketing campaigns.
Washington took the most drastic measures when it comes to tourism, closely followed by only one other state – Connecticut, that also pulled virtually all tourism funding, but kept the staff involved in promoting it.
Washington’s tourism industry has created a new organization in charge of promoting the state. The new entity will take over some assets, including tourism websites, but it is still struggling for funding to properly market it to potential travelers.
While at this very moment the budget cut might seem like a great idea, on the long run, one of the most powerful industries in the state will lose ground and money. With most Americans planning to vacation this summer and other states competing for them, Washington will be almost nonexistent on this year’s travel map. International tourists, if they are successfully attracted, will pick more visible states.