Washington tourism rebranding gets complicated by COVID-19!

Published on : Thursday, July 30, 2020

The state economic shutdown in regards to the COVID-19 has only made the efforts by the Washington Tourism Marketing Authority even more complex to endorse the travel industry – mainly the struggling rural counties. Work continues within the destination marketing organization to rebrand Washington as a tourist destination, though the pandemic may ultimately change where and how tourists travel.

Currently, behind rebranding Washington tourism, WTMA is investing $250,000 and its success in this campaign may help improve the long-term economic consequences of COVID-19. Besides 2020’s cruise season getting cancelled, leisure travel across the U.S.-Canada border remains prohibited.
As the fourth largest industry of the state, tourism generates $21.4 billion in annual spending. From March 2020, in Washington, visitor spending has dropped by $3.8 billion, a 77 percent decline from 2019. Leisure and hospitality job loss composed 42 percent of all unemployment throughout April.

When it comes to job loss, it has been humungous. Prior to COVID-19, in tourism-related businesses, there were total of 182,700 workers employed which made up 3.8 percent of total jobs in Washington. As of May, 152,000 jobs were lost in the travel, leisure, and hospitality industries. Between March and April, those tourism-related job losses composed 42 percent of all new unemployment in the state.

Washington Hospitality Association Pierce County Executive Director, Anthony Anton told WTMA at its July 23 meeting “we’re the industry that is taking the hammer to the knee right now, and it’s been tough.”

Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Shiloh Burgess explained that tourism isn’t hoped to return to 2019 levels for quite some time. “I’m not here telling you really great news, but this is the reality of the tourism environment that we live in.”

She further added, besides rebranding efforts, WTMA “now has the added opportunity and responsibility of recovery campaigns programs and other mechanisms and resources to try to assist the industry.”

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