Weekly B-MOW: Washington Tourism Alliance Summit

Yesterday, I went to the Washington Tourism Alliance Summit. Talk about trying to make lemons into lemonade. As I’ve mentioned before, many different parts of the state budget are being cut significantly, but here is an industry that is having all of its state support eliminated. Literally, there will be no more state tourism office. It’s the 2011 equivalent of “Ford to City: Drop Dead.”

And yet rather than feeling sorry for themselves, they’re picking up the pieces and making it happen on their own.

Tourism promoters have a message for hotel owners, shopkeepers and small-town tourist bureaus lamenting the closure of the Washington State Tourism office.

Get over it.

“Bottom line, the governor did not include tourism in the budget. There is no funding,” George Schweitzer of Red Lion Hotels told a group of about 500 gathered Thursday for a tourism-industry summit at a SeaTac hotel sponsored by the Washington Tourism Alliance.

The new trade group was organized by Seattle’s and Spokane’s convention and visitors bureaus, the Port of Seattle, the Washington Lodging Association and others. “After June 30,” Schweitzer said, “we’ll have to come up with our own solutions.”

I’m not sure I have anything to add, analysis-wise, other than what I’ve already written on this topic. It’s tough to compete in the global economy for tourists when states like California – with a $26.6 billion deficit – are spending $50 million and we’re spending zero. And so the reason the summit gets the “Best Meeting of the Week” feature this week is because it was just nice to be in a room full of positive, proactive people dealing with their problems and ‘making it happen.’ When they originally planning this summit, they were thinking that they’d get 150 folks. Instead they got 500. It’s easy to get depressed these days – between the bad economy, the wars, the natural disasters and the weather – and that can-do spirit is a real pick-me-up.

Now there’s a lot of work to be done to make sure they’re successful.A funding strategy, an organizational model and plenty of other logistics and politics left to deal with. But so far, so great. You go, tourism industry!

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