Tacoma and Pierce County tourism industry salutes good news at annual gathering

Staff writerMarch 13, 2014 

Nowhere did a discouraging word rise to darken the mood as tourism officials conducted the annual meeting of the Tacoma Regional Convention + Visitor Bureau Thursday at Lakewood’s McGavick Conference Center.

The news was all good.

• A year-old sales partnership between the bureau and the city-owned Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center has led to more efficient outreach, and bookings have increased. The 2013 revenue goal of $451,000 at the center came in higher by more than 300 percent at $1,358,712.

• The bureau has adopted a new brand, “Fearless Exploration,” focusing on glass art, collector vehicles and Mount Rainier.

• Some South Sound hotels have reported occupancy rates higher than were seen in the previous two years. Booked room nights in 2012, 10,778, rose to 16,570 in 2013. 

• The recent Go West Summit, the first ever in Washington, welcomed travel professionals from around the world.

• State government looks ready to once again fund the promotion of tourism in Washington.

• Visitor spending and tourism earnings in Pierce County were higher in 2013 than were recorded in any of the previous four years.

“We’re only successful when we stay focused on the visitor first and foremost,”  Bennish Brown, bureau president and CEO, told the gathering of some 200 guests.

Most applauded when he noted the passage of legislation that will revive the moribund  Washington Tourism Alliance Board.

Kim Bedier, facilities director for the City of Tacoma with purview over the convention center and Tacoma Dome, spoke of the increase in “heads and beds” visitors to the area.

Speaking of the increase in revenue at the decade-old convention center, she said the facility enjoyed a 77 percent occupancy rate last October, and she said the lights at the center - now green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day – will soon be turned pink to recognize the influx of some 2,000 Mary Kay adherents.

Brown continued, “2014 looks to be a great year as well.”

And 2015 likely won’t be shabby.

Keynote speaker Hunter George, Pierce County communications director, enthusiastically outlined what the tourism industry might expect when the 115th U.S. Open golf tournament comes to Chambers Bay in University Place a year from this June.

Referring to previous tournaments, he said  hoteliers can look forward to 4,300 booked rooms for golf officials, vendors and members of the media alone, while the tournament will be seen by more than 100 million television viewers."

After the meeting, Brown thanked state government for reviving the tourism office.

“Ultimately the effort will mean more tourists, more tourism dollars,” he said. “This state is reclaiming its share of the global tourism market. We will definitely see some tremendous growth in visitors.”

He also commented on the marriage last April between sales staff at the bureau, who sell conventions more than a year away, and at the convention center, who book more immediate gatherings.

“It has lived up to our expectations,” he said.


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