The Washington State Legislature has passed a bill to put a tourism marketing plan in place for the first time since 2011 when the statewide tourism office was cut out of the budget.
Senate Bill 5251 would create the Washington Tourism Marketing Authority (WTMA), to manage financial resources for the development of a statewide tourism marketing plan.
The Senate bill is a companion measure to House Bill 1123, sponsored by Rep. Cary Condotta, R-Wenatchee.
“Washington is the only state in the country that does not have some type of investment in the tourism industry at the state level. What makes this bill so efficient is that the private industry must put up two dollars for each dollar the state invests. Studies show that for every dollar invested in a marketing program, the program returns somewhere around $2.50 in state taxes,” said Condotta. “We heard during public testimony our neighboring states – Idaho, Oregon, Montana and California – are spending anywhere from $5 million to $120 million a year to attract tourists. They are seeing a much larger return on their investment.”
The bill directs 0.2 percent of retail sales taxes collected on lodging, car rentals, and restaurants, up to $1.5 million in 2019, and up to $3 million per biennium after 2019, to fund the implementation of the statewide tourism marketing plan. The bill would also require the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) to evaluate the work of the WTMA.
“The work done on this legislation has been a true collaborative effort with stakeholders and legislators. It is time to get this program up and running,” said Condotta. “We have one of the most diverse and beautiful states in the country. The 12th District alone is home to Lake Chelan, Leavenworth, the Methow Valley and Mission Ridge. Now we will be able to share the charm and appeal of our state on a much broader spectrum.”
The bill passed both the House of Representatives and Senate unanimously. The WTMA is expected to be funded in the final operating budget.
The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn the regular legislative session on March 8.