Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Washington Didn’t Learn From Colorado

I guess Washington State neglected to check to see what happened to Colorado when it similarly shut its tourism promotion down between 1993 and 1997 as Washington will at week’s end.

Visitation there dropped so dramatically back then that it more than erased any budget savings and worsened the deficit as tourism revenues and relatable tax revenues plummeted according to a post-in-depth analysis by IHS Global Insight.

That was an interesting time period for analysis because tourism on average declined nationwide, so it was easier to see how much further Colorado fell with no promotion to soften the fall.Capture

When Colorado did finally crank tourism promotion back up, it took another three years to get back up to speed and when it did, it was still 11 points short of the national average.

According to the analysis, a smarter move would have been for Washington State to increase tourism promotion as a means to help fight its way out of the deficit.  But politics is personal not logical and many politicians “cut stupidly not wisely” to paraphrase conservative columnist David Brooks.

Ordinarily, Washington is a very progressive state, having sat down as New York did to negotiate with its public unions rather than taking the bullying-agenda-driven confrontational, zero-sum approach that Wisconsin and, more recently New Jersey, did.

Washington has a lot of tourism potential.  I cut my teeth there in the 70s at the beginning of my just-concluded career in tourism-driven economic and cultural development.

Washington, like my adopted home state of North Carolina, is very geographically diverse from one side to the other.  It starts with coastline and rain forests in the west, climbs over the Cascades into high desert plateau which is perfect for wine growing, across the rolling hills of the Palouse and then back up into the lake country and foothills of the Rocky Mountains at Spokane on the eastern side.

However, Washington has always seemed to take its tourism for granted, especially on the western side which often breaths in so much of its own fog that it feels “entitled” to tourism.

But at least this move may provide another opportunity to closely observe how stupid it is to cut visitor-centric economic and cultural development.

Although, it may be a harder to gauge because Washington has more destination marketing-equipped cities than Colorado had back then which, hopefully, may be able to individually soldier-on in an effort to mitigate the state’s losses.


Troy said...

Thanks for the post Reyn.

Although the office has already been closed, it is still so important to educate others on the dangers of neglecting tourism.

- Troy

J.Richmore said...

It is true. The lagging local tourism is a cause of concern. Most Americans prefer exotic destinations like flights to manila, Philippines which is cheaper compared to a getaway weekend to Los Angeles.