The goose that laid the golden egg sang a swan song Thursday, so now it’s time to find out what the new normal is.
So said Bennish Brown, president and CEO of the Tacoma Regional Convention & Visitor Bureau, following the group’s Tourism Matters annual meeting at the McGavick Conference Center in Lakewood. The meeting included a recap of the benefits from the U.S. Open golf championship last year.
“We prepared for the U.S. Open for three years. Now we get to ride on that momentum, and we also expect to see what life is like without it,” he said.
“We have identified our strong points. We know the potential for being a good marketing and sales organization,” Brown said. “We’re trying to see where we will level out. We need to see where the norm is. We’re all bracing to see what 2016 will be without the U.S. Open.”
So far, he said, 2016 looks pretty good.
“We have a lot to be proud of as a destination,” Brown said as he began his remarks to the capacity crowd of hoteliers, destination representatives and others involved in the travel business.
With the Open golf tournament — that $134-million golden-egg-laying goose — Pierce County saw the sixth consecutive year of growth, Brown said.
Since the championship was awarded, the bureau has counted 26,548 articles in print or online that mention the area. While online traffic to the bureau hit 8,732 visitors in 2014, last year saw 24,854.
Revenue at the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center hit $2.89 million in 2015, and 15 major events have been booked for this year, with 15 on the books for 2017, for a total of 44 bookings so far, through 2019.
Following a “Portland Takeover” promotion last year, in which Tacoma visitor bureau workers hid 100 glass containers for a scavenger hunt within the Rose City, there has been a 100 percent increase in TravelTacoma.com Web traffic from Oregon. Meanwhile, both the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad and Northwest Trek saw a record year in 2015.
Speaking about Northwest Trek, Metro Parks chief communications officer Hunter George said, “Baby animals really help.”
He also said that Northwest Trek will open Kid’s Trek on April 2, and mountain bikers can look forward to a three-mile run at Swan Creek. These projects are joined by new attractions slated for Point Defiance, including an aquarium and an 11-acre waterfront park adjacent to the Tacoma Yacht Club.
Also looking ahead, Brown said McMenamins will open its Elks Temple hotel project in 2017, and a convention center hotel project might break ground next winter. The Festival of Sail celebration is slated for 2017.
At Thursday’s meeting, Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy was given a President’s Pinnacle Award for her work in bringing the U.S. Open to fruition.
“No event has generated such revenue for a one-week event,” McCarthy said in accepting the honor. “It’s proof that tourism does matter. We want it to be the gift that keeps on giving.”
The Tacoma-area travel group annually offers recognition to local industry leaders, and this year’s winners were:
▪ Meilee Anderson, director of sales and marketing for the Mount Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum, who won the Tourism Hospitality Award.
▪ Ken Thoburn, owner of Wingman Brewery, who won the Tourism Entrepreneur Award.
▪ Mike Gommi, former general manager at the Courtyard Tacoma Downtown hotel, who won the Tourism Visionary Award.
C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535