EDASC Brings CEO of Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority to Present on Benefits of a Tourism Promotion Area

Friday, March 16, 2018

Main News Photo

John Sternlicht, CEO of the Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County (EDASC), and Katherine Kertzman, CEO of the Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority, presented to an audience of Skagit County Commissioners, mayors, city councilmembers, hoteliers, chambers of commerce, and business leaders on March 15. The presentation and discussion were held at the Skagit County Commissioners’ meeting room in Mount Vernon, sponsored by EDASC, to provide a forum for information on best practices and discussion regarding the establishment of a Tourism Promotion Area (TPA) for Skagit County.

The Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority is responsible for competitively marketing the cities of Sea-Tac, Tukwila, and Des Moines as an ideal travel destination branded “Seattle Southside.” Kertzman is a tourism industry veteran with extensive hospitality and other marketing industry experience in Texas and Washington State. She serves on the Board of the Washington State Destination Marketing Organizations as Past President and Past Legislative Affairs Chair, and has earned the prestigious designations of Certified Destination Management Executive and a Certified Tourism Ambassador.

After Sternlicht provided the context for the discussion, including the benefits, features, and operations of establishing a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) in addition to the existing Lodging Tax Advisory Committees (LTAC), Kertzman presented the formation, challenges, and successes to date of their tourism promotion area. Although representing a different type and size area from Skagit County, the Seattle Southside destination marketing organization holds many valuable lessons for Skagit County in its efforts to draw more tourist dollars to the region.

Following Kertzman’s presentation, stakeholders and community members had the opportunity to speak regarding the formation of a TPA and DMO for Skagit County. Many commenters, including Anthony Young and Ryan Walters of the Anacortes City Council; Germaine Kornegay and Pola Kelley of the Sedro-Woolley City Council; and Andy Mayer of the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce, also speaking on behalf of the Skagit County Chamber Executive Directors Association, voiced support for the measure, citing cooperation among localities and across the county as benefiting all residents. Concrete Mayor Jason Miller sees much promise in the initiative to bring economic development to more remote corners of Skagit County. Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton acknowledged the hard work done already towards establishment of a TPA, and felt confident that a successful completion is at hand. Hoteliers who spoke enthusiastically supported the TPA initiative.

Kertzman mentioned that each dollar spent on the Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority generated $42 in visitor spending in 2017. This piqued the curiosity of County Commissioner Lisa Janicki and Sedro-Woolley Council Member Kelley, who inquired about how they measured and attained that level of success. Kertzman replied that her organization subscribes to the leading data services compiling various statistics about online and in person visitors that led to that conclusion.

EDASC would like to thank the Skagit County Commissioners, mayors and city council members, hoteliers, Chambers of Commerce, and other business leaders for their attendance and continuing input and support. For several years EDASC, the Chambers of Commerce, lodging businesses, and others have been working to bring the Skagit County TPA to reality. This new avenue of economic development would increase visitor numbers and therefore revenues in Skagit County year-round. A TPA would give the community a greater ability to shape how tourists find Skagit County and where they go, as well as to promote the area as a destination for local, regional, and international visitors, bringing more opportunities for small businesses to grow and developing additional amenities. EDASC has already seen success with the Birds of Winter initiative, where visitors came in the traditionally off-season months of October to March to watch migratory birds winter in Skagit County, all while dining at local restaurants and spending money in local businesses on their way.

Washington state legislation creates the framework by which area lodging businesses petition the county to create the TPA. EDASC has included tourism in its strategic plan for Skagit County economic developoment, and convened stakeholders on this issue for at least the past three years. Many rural areas of the country have enjoyed great success in capitalizing on visitors enjoying local agricultural products, art, crafts, scenic beauty, and other attractions, while preserving that which drew them there in the first place. With careful research and strategy, Skagit County can achieve its tourism and community goals in ways that are consistent with our values and character.

The presentation can be viewed on Skagit County's Skagit21 television network.

Category: Tourism, Economy

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