OLYMPIA -- Attracting more tourists to Washington is the goal behind House Bill 2229. The bill to revive the state's tourism marketing program passed overwhelmingly in the Washington state House.
Three years ago the state cut its tourism office due to budget cuts. The move made Washington the only state in the country that doesn't spend state dollars to promote tourism.
A number of lawmakers and businesses say Washington is missing out on millions of dollars and visitors.
“If we don’t step up and have money to market ourselves as that kind of anchor destination for the Pacific Northwest, Vancouver’s going to get that business directly, Portland’s going to get that business directly. We’re not going to have that economic growth in tourism here in Washington,” said Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon, who sponsored HB 2229.
Under HB 2229, the state will work with the Washington Tourism Alliance Board, which is made of up of stakeholders in the tourism industry.
The goal is to set up a central way to collect money from lodging, restaurants, hotels, transportation, retail, recreation and entertainment groups for the sole purpose of marketing Washington. The board estimates $7.5 million is a reasonable amount to collect. Money would only be spent on tourism marketing.
To put things in perspective, British Columbia spends up to $60 million a year on tourism marketing and Oregon, which has half the population of Washington, spends $22 million a year.
HB 2229 passed 88 to 8 and now heads to the state senate. The first public hearing is set for Feb. 27.