Washington Tourism At A Glance
One issue that continues to be part of our advocacy efforts with legislators throughout the special session is the Washington Tourism Marketing Program. Please contact your legislators and let them know that Washington Tourism matters. You can also comment on the bills by following these directions.
During the regular session EASC advocated in support of House Bill (HB) 1123 and Senate Bill (SB) 5251, which creates a Tourism Marketing Account for the state of Washington. This is a smart investment that would create a funding mechanism for a Tourism Marketing Account beginning July 1, 2017. Under this account, 0.1% of general sales taxes collected on retails sales of lodging, restaurants and rental cars would be deposited. Deposits are limited to $5 million per biennium (every two year state budget cycle) and are subject to private matching funds prior to expenditure. The plan offers the potential for a maximum of $15 million per biennium to be spent on the tourism marketing program.
Both budgets released from the House and Senate have acknowledged the importance of tourism in Washington state giving partial funding under their proposed budgets. The Senate budget specifically mentions the WTA supported Tourism Marketing legislation SB 5251 and appropriates $500,000 for planning in fiscal year 2018. While this is not the full amount of funding requested, it keeps the underlying legislation alive because it is considered “necessary to implement the budget” and provides funding that can be the subject of budget negotiations.
The House budget provides funding for a public-private match program through the Washington Department of Commerce. The appropriation is for $2.3 million to invest in several industry sectors including tourism. This budget is also not the full funding requested, but it is important that tourism is explicitly listed as a priority. It gives House budget negotiators flexibility in their discussions with their Senate counterparts.
Why it’s so important:
- Since the state closed its Tourism Office in 2011, Washington is the ONLY state without a statewide tourism marketing program.
- Competing western states have budgets ranging from $7 – $50 million (see graphic).
What it will do for our economy:
- Generate additional beneficial economic development from Washington’s fourth largest industry.
- Expand the benefits of tourism in rural and economically distressed regions of the state.
- Generate tax dollars from out-of-state interests that will help fund other state priorities.
With the first special session ending tomorrow and no budget deal on the horizon, EASC continues its advocacy efforts with legislators on our regional priorities to ensure we are at the table as the Legislature works out a budget deal in the coming weeks.