Senate passes legislation to boost tourism statewide

Bipartisan legislation establishing a new statewide Tourism Marketing Authority (WTMA) passed the Washington state Senate Saturday.

The bill would direct the group to develop and implement a tourism-marketing plan to drive tourism dollars to all parts of the state.

“The natural and diverse beauty found in every corner of Washington, from Wahkiakum to Pend Oreille, is unrivaled,” said Sen. Dean Takko, D-Longview and sponsor of Senate Bill 5251. “The economic boom in the Puget Sound continues to bring in new residents and visitors from around our country and the world. This legislation will encourage our new neighbors, and many more, to explore the wonders of our state, all the while bringing much-needed dollars into rural communities.”

Washington state closed its tourism office in 2011 to cut costs during the Great Recession. Currently, Washington is the only state in the country without a coordinate tourism program.

“Our state has so much to offer when it comes to tourism opportunities,” said Warnick, R-Moses Lake. “Tourism done this way is an export that benefits local communities directly. It benefits small retailers, outdoor recreation, state parks, and ultimately the taxpayers of Washington. This is an innovative way for the private sector and government to collaborate and bring needed investment to all areas of our state.”

The WTMA would be funded by directing 0.2 percent of retail sales taxes collected on lodgings, car rentals, and restaurants.

SB 5251 passed out of the Senate on a unanimous vote and now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.