Support state tourism bill | Letter

Perhaps a timely subject for reporting in 2018 is tourism in Washington. While tourism is the largest employer in this state, Washington is the only state in the U.S. that does not have a statewide tourism marketing program. Locally, tourism is the largest source of income and many people in the San Juan Islands depend upon tourism dollars to survive. Four out of five tourism-related companies are small businesses, and tourism dollars greatly affect both business owners and employees.

Tourism creates jobs, fuels our economy, and generates significant tax revenue. But currently we’re losing visitors to neighboring states with dedicated tourism promotion. For example, Oregon invests $19 million in statewide tourism efforts and receives $237 in new spending for every $1 invested. Montana also invests $19 million into statewide tourism and their traveler spending grew 70 percent faster than in Washington, according to Washington Hospitality Association Magazine, January 2018 issue.

Legislative priorities in Olympia this year include House Bill 1123 and Senate Bill 5251 to create sustainable long-term funding for state-wide tourism promotion. These bills focus on a marketing plan and campaign to bring more tourists to Washington and especially to rural tourism-dependent counties including San Juan County. Forty percent of tourism dollars are spent outside the state’s major cities and suburbs. Washington’s travel-generated tax revenue growth is 26 percent slower than the national rate. We are missing out on significant economic opportunity!

No doubt the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau, the San Juan Islands Chamber of Commerce, local employers and employees, Kevin Ranker and many other people would have supportive opinions on the value of a statewide tourism marketing program.

Thank you for your consideration!

Greg, Naoni and Nicholas Zervas

Owners / Innkeepers

Hillside House B&B Friday Harbor