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John Batchelor

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Rantz: Seattle tourism budget should be zero

If Washington tourism office once again gets funded, it better push for travel outside of Seattle. (AP)

In 2011, the state decided to be a little cheap and cut one particular post: the Washington tourism office. It was the office responsible for putting out ad campaigns that tell people from around the country to come visit Washington state because we’ve got all sorts of fun stuff to offer.

Now there are some lawmakers pushing for a plan to generate $15 million to re-fund the office so that we can lure more people in. States like Oregon, Montana, and California are spending anywhere from $5-120 million a year to attract visitors.

Related: A sleazy, baseless attack on Rep. Dave Reichert

The thinking behind this rationale is that if you spend some money, you get at least three-times back than what you invested because these visitors come and spend money on hotels, restaurants, and shops. It not only spurs the economy, but it’s directly responsible for jobs.

My co-host, Zak Burns, is correct when he says that this is the best type of tax revenue we could get because it’s people paying primarily sales tax, while not reaping the benefits they’re helping pay for.

As much as I like this idea if the state ends up doing this I hope they are more selective in where they spend the money because the state tourism office will work for the entire state, not just Seattle, which already has the nonprofit marketing organization Visit Seattle. But I have the sense that there will be a push to do just that.

Washington tourism and Seattle

Here are my issues with that.
No. 1: now is not the right time for a tourist to come to the Seattle area. Because what’s going to happen? They will likely stay at one of the fine hotels in downtown Seattle. There are some tremendous restaurants around that area, but the problem is they’re going to start walking around and realizing this is a city that has an out-of-control homelessness issue.

I walk Seattle every single weekend. It is getting dirtier and dirtier, and nothing is being done.

No. 2: I would rather us focus particularly on areas where the communities are not as particularly strong as the Seattle area. I would look specifically to Eastern Washington. I’d focus on getting wine in Walla Walla when thinking about Washington tourism. That’s a cool weekend or week trip. Do the boating or camping thing in Chelan. Try hiking around Bellingham.

I want Sequim to be the new face of Washington state — mostly because I want people to ask: Is it Sec-weeum? Is it Sa-quim. How is it pronounced?

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