Bellingham City Club: Tourism as an Economic Driver featuring Dylan Deane-Boyle

Bellingham City Club: Tourism as an Economic Driver featuring Dylan Deane-Boyle

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[MUSIC] Hello and welcome to City Club. My name is Forrest Longman and I am the current president of the board. The mission of City Club is to inform, connect and engage our community to strengthen the civic health of our region. We emphasize civil conversations and listening to others. We begin by acknowledging with humility that the land where we are today is the territory of the people of the Salish Sea.

Their presence is imbued in the waterways, shorelines, valleys and mountains of traditional homelands of the Coast Salish people. It has been this way since time immemorial. As always, I'd like to thank all the volunteers who make our programs possible. I'd also like to thank KMRU Radio Board member Robert Clark, who is producing today's program, and BTV10 will be broadcasting it to their viewers. I'd also like to thank all of our sponsors for their support.

They are Bruce and Claudia Dison, Danny Neal, real estate broker of the Molliot Group, the Firehouse Arts and Events Center, Colshon CPAs, the Opportunity Council, Civic Continental Realty, Unity Care Northwest, Village Books, Western Washington University, Wacom Community College, and the Wacom Community Foundation. Today, I also have some big news, and that is that our next City Club program will be held in person. We're very excited about this.

It's been three years since City Club met in person, and in that time, sadly, our previous venue Northwood Hall went out of business. For quite a while now, the board's been working diligently to find an alternative location. With that, we're excited to announce that our May 24th program, titled Boosting Climate Resilience with Public and Private Partnerships, will be held at the Bellingham Yacht Club. As before, lunch and cookies will be included. But the Yacht Club is a smaller venue, so seating will be limited to 150 people.

I encourage you to buy your tickets ahead of time, because there may not be room for walk-ups. We hope we see you all on the 24th, and we're really excited for all of this and to get back in person. Now, I'll hand things off for our moderator, Jane Freudenberger. Jane's on our program committee, and we'll introduce today's speaker. Jane? Thank you, Forrest. Well, we're excited today to welcome somebody new to our community.

He's been here for a few months now. Villan Dean Boyle is the new director and president of the Bellingham Whatcom Tourism Board. He holds a BS in marketing from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and an MS in parks, tourism, and recreation. That sounds like a good degree. From the University of Montana, he served as the executive director of the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau in Whitefish, Montana.

He was recently recognized as one of his destination's top 20 under 40 young professionals. I'm very happy to welcome you here today, Dylan, and I hope that you're going to get us all interested in visiting our own town. I'll turn it over to you. Wonderful. Well, thank you, Jane.

I appreciate the introduction, and thank you to the Bellingham City Club for the opportunity to speak with you all today. Once again, my name is Dylan Dean Boyle. I'm the new president and CEO at Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism. I took over a couple of months ago for Sandy Ward, who probably many of you know. Sandy is now retired and deservedly so. Sandy had a long 30-year career in the Washington tourism industry.

I'm just excited to take over and build upon a strong foundation that Sandy has built for tourism here in Bellingham and Whatcom County. What I'm going to do today is basically three things. One, I'm going to give you an overview of the tourism economy in Whatcom County in general. I'll talk about some numbers and why tourism is so important to our local economy. I'm also going to dive into what we do here at Bellingham Whatcom County tourism to raise awareness of Bellingham and Whatcom County as a premier travel destination.

Then, as Jane said, I'm hopefully going to inspire you all to be a visitor in your own backyard and provide you with some of our resources and tools to hopefully provide you with more information of which to do so and go out and explore in whichever way that you enjoy doing. I'm going to start this off with a very seemingly simple idea, but I want to explain it a little bit. Travel, tourism, recreation, and hospitality, I consider to be the front door to the economy. When you go and visit a place for the first time, you are a visitor.

It's almost like a first date. You're checking it out, you're looking around, you're really soaking in that experience at that place. Not only from that perspective is it the front door, but it's also the front door for a lot of people beginning careers and those first jobs that they get. For myself, I started off working out in coffee shops and golf courses and in event catering when I was younger in high school and college age. That was those entry-level beginning jobs were my stepping stone to creating a long-term career path. It is for so many.

There's a couple different ways to look at that in terms of tourism being that front door to the economy. I want to start just with that premise. Let's talk about why tourism is important to our area. It's important to our year-round economy. We want to make sure that our local businesses are able to stay open year-round and employ a workforce year-round.

For us, it's really making sure that we can continue to provide business from a visitor perspective. I mean that in terms of overnight stays, in particular from those that are outside of Whatcom County, coming in, spending the night, staying, and trying to do that year-round to keep our business levels consistent. In that way, economic development is a great investment for businesses and governments. We also provide much needed tax revenue from visitors who come in and spend those dollars. We're talking hotel/motel tax, we're talking sales tax, all those things that go back to those great services and also provide workforce and businesses to sustain themselves.

It's really a good investment. On the intrinsic value side of things, I also think it's really important to think about tourism as a way to appreciate our natural resources, our history, our arts, our culture, our attractions, both from those that visit but also locally, per locals. It's a reminder of how appreciative we should be of all those wonderful assets. We're lucky. We have so many of those here in our area. It's also a way to bring people together. In the tourism industry, nothing is done alone.

Nothing is done in a vacuum. It's all about cooperation, coordination, and collaboration. I can talk a little bit more about some of those various partnerships. You'll hear a little bit more about that in my presentation as well, but we can certainly talk more about that later on as well. Now I want to just give you a little bit of an idea of what's happened in the last few years in terms of the economic impact of tourism here.

I don't yet have the 2022 full year numbers yet, so hopefully in the next month or so, I should have those finalized from the state. For now, we're just going to look and see what's happened in the last couple of years. When we look at the economic impact of tourism here in Whatcom County, year in, year out, we are about number five in terms of countywide spend for tourism dollars is about where we sit. Pretty high in terms of countywide in Washington state.

This data that I'm about to show you, it's provided by the State of Washington Tourism, which is our state tourism office. They work with an organization called Tourism Economics to come up with this data. That's where this information comes from. We're looking at roughly in 2021, we're talking over $527 million spent in Whatcom County by visitors. As you can see, when we're looking back at those 2019 numbers, we're talking well over half a billion dollars, $555 million spent. You can see the ways in which those are spent in those categories.

We're talking about accommodations, recreation, arts and entertainment, food and beverage, retail sales is how it's broken down. I look at it as that was our baseline there, pre-pandemic in 2019. We obviously all are very well aware of what happened in 2020. Saw a significant decrease, over 30% decrease in travel spending. We started climbing back out in 2021, which is great.

At the end of the year in 2021, we're at about 95% of pre-pandemic level, according to this data. Now, I can tell you that that is great recovery. At the same time, it is not spread out evenly across the different segments of the tourism industry. We are not where we would like to be, but thankfully, we are at least on a steady trajectory back up to hopefully where we were pre-pandemic.

Here's those sector impacts that I was talking about, as well as what we have and have at sea from an economic recovery perspective in the tourism industry here in Bellingham, and what we're telling. I think that we saw some, as I mentioned, some really good rebounds in accommodations. We saw some really good rebound in our food and beverage and in our retail jobs. We're still climbing back out.

In 2019, there were over 7,400 jobs that are directly attributed to tourism here in the county. We saw a big hit, obviously, in 2020 for various reasons. Saw a 12% increase in 2021. So hopefully, when I see those 2022 numbers, that's going to continue to go back up, because we want to continue to have businesses open and folks employed in this economy.

So that's just a quick snapshot of what we've seen. So now, let's talk about what my organization does for Bellingham and for Whatcom County. So first and foremost, Bellingham-Whatcom County Tourism is what is called a destination marketing organization or a DMO for short. And what we do is we are a countywide organization, and we're the only one whose singular focus is on tourism development and destination marketing. So really, our overall goal is to improve the local economy by attracting visitors to stay in our local lodging properties and really experience and enjoy what we have to offer.

And hopefully, stay longer, because the longer we get visitors to stay, the more money that is here and spent locally. So really, we are essentially a nonprofit economic development organization on the tourism marketing end is another way to look at what we do. So some of our overall strategies for this is, most importantly, we are raising a lot of awareness of our destination to folks that do not live in our area. We're saying, this is a great area, come visit.

And here are some of the niche markets and other activities and reasons why you might want to come. So we call that general awareness. So we do that through marketing and advertising out of market. We also do this in ways where we look at bringing in press trips. So we have media come and do visits and talk about the delivery.

Come and do visits and talk about the different things that there are to see and do here, which I'll give some examples of later. So that's kind of our general awareness. We have a lot of great tools as well that we use. We have a great website, I will mention that many times throughout the presentation, because I want you guys to use that as a resource. Many social media platforms.

We also have a variety of email newsletters that go out, depending on niche, depending on audience. We have our local, we have our visitor, consumer newsletters. We also have local visitor support as well.

So I'll talk a little bit more about that. We have printed materials that are distributed here locally. And again, I'll go into that a little bit more.

We have presence at conferences and trade shows. Sports and meeting development is important to us as well, from that kind of larger group's perspective as well. So going into some of the things that we have been working on recently, we have been working with the port of Bellingham and our airport, BLI, to help raise awareness of a new nonstop flight from Denver to Bellingham on Southwest Airlines, which started on April 15th. And that is a weekly nonstop flight that is on Saturdays. And that is going to run from April 15th through early November.

And so we are helping to raise awareness of that because that is a great connection, not only for an audience perspective, for visitors to come to Bellingham from Denver, but it's also great for us to be able to have connections to the Rocky Mountain region, as well as that being a hub to connect elsewhere. So there's many reasons why supporting air service is great. It's great for visitors. It's great for locals.

It's very helpful, especially as we continue to build back some of those flights and markets. We also have a great athlete ambassador program. So I mentioned we do a lot as well, a lot of collaborative work on the ground.

So we sponsor some local athletes in various different disciplines for various purposes and help raise awareness of Bellingham as a great place for events, athletes, and recreation as well. So we've got some great videos and things that we put out and we sponsor some local athletes. This is some screen captures from a shoot that we did recently. As I mentioned, trade shows. So for example, we are to travel an adventure show in LA and the Vancouver outdoor show in BC, where we actually have some help from some representatives from some great local guiding companies from Dragon Flight Kayak, as well as the Fair Haven Association as well. So again, we really help to promote collaboratively what's going on here locally in Bellingham and in Walken County.

And just an idea of kind of what some of those lists look like. We also work very closely with the state tourism office on these types of ventures as well. Recently, we have been able to work back on the international market side of things.

This is a group of German tour operators that we helped to host here. And that was last month. And that is in cooperation with the state of Washington tourism. For us, we haven't really been able to talk about the European travel market in a couple of years due to travel restrictions.

So it's great to get some of those tour operators here so that they can familiarize themselves with the area to talk to their clients about them in the future. Media, as I mentioned, is coming back. We have recently and continue to host travel writers, for example, from Northwest Travel and Life magazine, as well as we had a recent trip with Vancouver magazine as well to talk about what is new in the area in the last couple of years and hopefully get those folks from Vancouver to come down, stay in the area as well, in addition to those day trips, which you know well, but really the idea is let's have a weekend away. Some media pitches we work on with the state of Washington tourism. I think it's important to look at things like sort of green and responsible tourism that we work on with them, as well as different destinations and whether that's niche, whether that's whole family, whether that is, for example, this would be best small towns to visit, kind of those different angles that we work at as well.

Another interesting angle here was off the beaten path military destinations. As well, like I mentioned, there's a lot of interesting little niches that we have here to work on. Just to give you an example, because you probably haven't seen any of these being here in the area. The idea is that we're sending these out to those outside of our area. So just some, we obviously love our scenic highways, as important as well as our arts and culture, our dining scene in addition to our recreation.

So just to give you an example, in addition to outdoor recreation, so just to give you a few ideas. That's an eyeshadow, a cinnamo. And here are some examples of those that we, those creative that are currently in the market for our nonstop flight to Denver.

Events year round is also something that we love to promote. We have just wonderful events and we want to make sure that awareness is there of those as well. Here is some external media highlights just recently.

You can see on my screen. One of my favorites, the 25 best coffee shops in the US. Canberra Coffee was named one of the 25 best coffee shops.

So these are all great. That's just one in particular that is excellent. So really what I kind of talked about is just essentially, you know, that branding piece in those ads really speak to our audiences. But those accolades that I mentioned, that speaks to how great of a, how great of an area that we have and how awesome our local businesses in our community are. Just a fun way to look at it. And if you're curious to look at kind of some of those more, more of those media mentions and article coverages, there is how you would get there.

It's So let's talk social media a little bit. So if you're, if you're interested, we're on various social media platforms. We cover a lot of different content and topics. We're very consistent with our posting. So we are on Facebook.

By the way, we are Bellingham Experience. Facebook. We are also on Instagram. Here are some examples of some Instagram posts. We are on Twitter.

We are on Pinterest as well. And we're also gaining some leverage on TikTok as well. Many of those I use TikTok.

So that's a great way to keep in touch and be informed about everything that's going on here locally, any of those platforms. So I want to talk about some key takeaways from my presentation today. First and foremost, tourism is a vital part of our local economy, as I mentioned. It's also big for our region and our national economy as well. It's a huge driver.

It also, the tourism and hospitality recreation industry provides many excellent career paths. I mentioned that front door. It can lead into long-term, many, many, many different types of long-term careers. So I really encourage students as well to really engage in this industry. It's very fulfilling and there's lots of different long-term career paths to take. long-term career paths to take.

And the third key takeaway here is be a visitor in your own town. You have so many things to experience. So I'm going to give you some ways in which to do so. First off, we have multiple locations for visitor services. If you would like maps, different recommendations, ways to get physical information. We have our Potter Street Lighthouse Building, which is our main visitor information center. We

have a kiosk at the Bellingham International Airport. We also have one at the cruise terminal. We have one at Finnegan's Alley and Fair Haven. We have a mobile trike, which I'll show you a picture of that goes to the farmer's market in other areas. And we also have a really cool new tool, which is live chat on So you can go on the homepage and ask questions. So when I was saying it's the lighthouse building, it is the lighthouse building on Potter Street is our visitor information center. That's

a picture of the visitor information center at the airport. Our cruise terminal on the left and our mobile trike on the right. So many different ways you can access information from us here on the ground. The website is just an incredible amount of information. And when you go to on the homepage, it's

kind of broken down into four different categories. We have adventure, we have sightseeing, we have attend, so that could be various events. And we have saver as well, which is really important. And

there's a great planning tool as well for our lodging and those types of things. So make sure that you take a dive into each of these sections. Also, we have tons of trip ideas and itineraries for you on the website as well. We have a lot, these are just three examples I picked out, easy access trails for everyone. What are the best brunch spots in Bellingham and Whatcom County? And shopping in the historic Fairhaven district of Bellingham. So just lots of great ideas

and itineraries to choose from. So I highly recommend checking that out. And another great kind of itinerary and fun tool is we hosted Washingtonian Rick Steves for a visit. And Rick did four short video episodes for us on various adventures. So you can find those videos embedded on our website,

And it was just a great project. And I definitely recommend checking those out as well. One other thing I want to note for our visitor services, we rely heavily on volunteers for that visitor's visitor information services.

So if that is something you're interested in, we're always happy to talk about what that looks like. You can email With that or any questions you might have, the website is here as well. And I would be happy to answer questions. Well, that was a great tour of Bellingham right there. And

one of the things that brings people to Bellingham, of course, is the water, which you are right in front of us there with the flowers in front. And I feel like those people don't bring the heads in the beds though that you want. They're on boats. They're in the, I mean, aside from the people who live here, the people who want to walk and everything in there too, of course, hotels down near the water too, which is good. Do we have enough hotel capacity to encourage more people to come here? Yeah, and we actually, we do. We have so many great varieties of properties as well, depending on what you're looking for. There also is going to be a new property that is part of the new waterfront development as well, which I think will be a great asset to the new waterfront development there. So I think we

have so many great ones to choose from. So when you get an influx of tourists, one of the things what we talked about was, are there quantifiable costs that are associated with tourism? I mean, we think of waste collection and disposal and public safety and all the things that you have to have when you have a lot of people. We certainly see that with key to see. Well, sure. I think anytime you have an influx of people, you're going to need services and infrastructure. And I think in particular, when you look at

those types of events, making sure there is proper infrastructure in place, I understand particularly from the waste side of things, I think we do a good job here in Bellingham of having those services available. I do think that one of the great things about tourism is that our visitors are paying into our local tax base and providing funds for those services. So I think that that is always a great, a great benefit.

So when you're looking for new things to come to Bellingham to serve tourists, to bring more tourists in here, what kind of things are you looking for? What do we lack? I would say first and foremost, I think we have an amazing array being new to town. I have been so happy to see the amount of activities that we have. It's really all about having activities and experiences for all different groups. And

whether that be accessibility, or that be whether it's outdoor recreation, arts and culture, food, we have all of that, which is great. I think it's always about what can we do outside of the peak summer season in terms of experiences. And I think that we continue to raise awareness of that and we continue to get more of those types of experiences. So that's what I would say is really kind of those, those non peak season events and activities in any which in a lot of different ways would be my.

Do you do a lot of, we have a lot of arts here, for instance, Mount Baker theater and of course the allied arts and how much promotion do you would do with that? I saw a lot of shopping and things like that and athletic things and not so much of the arts. Yeah, we absolutely do. We are a big supporter of the arts. We partner very closely with those organizations that you had mentioned. And we do that in a few ways. We have a wonderful events calendar on the website and that we make sure is up to date with those types of events. We push that out through our social media channels

as well. We have some of those ad campaigns I mentioned that I showed you talk specifically about those events and a lot of times those are hurt events as well as through social media. We like to highlight those as well. And then through our newsletters as well,

which we are consistently sending out every month as well to highlight those. Because we do believe that arts and culture are a big part of not only what we are as a community here but of the experience as well. We are getting a lot of people that are moving in climate refuge people of course because of what is going on and we probably will be warmer in the future. What kind of plans do

you have for things like ecotourism? So for us, what we really are looking at is the risk is responsible towards that. So that is providing information on how best to have an experience which is not going to damage natural resources. And we know those are fragile. And so some ways we do that is we have a really cool new collaboration with the state of Washington tourism called the Treadmap app. And that

is a interactive app that shows you specific information on recreational locations but also events, how to be prepared to do those things and how to do them properly. Because we are getting folks that are maybe new to recreation or just more or just in general and how to best provide that knowledge. We also are looking, we also have a partnership I should say with the Recreate Response and Coalition, which is a nationwide group that has some really great information on responsible recreation, how to do it, how to do it, how to do it well and respectfully as well. So

those are kind of some of the things that we do that and we push that out through a variety of ways. But those are just a few examples that we really try to hone in on that messaging as we do believe it is important. When we think about tourism coming in and we are all glad to have the tax money come in. But everybody complains about oh no, here they come. When Western comes in to move into the dorms that day we all stay home, which is great. We love Western. We are glad they are here. But how do you make sure that the desire for

accommodation for tourists and stuff does not further impact the housing problems that we have here? >> Sure. I am sure that is a question that lots of people have on the call today. So I think about this in a couple of different ways. The tourism economy is a vital and important part for all of those reasons I mentioned on the phone today. It is also important to have balance. For us, we are very, very fortunate here in Bellingham, Whatcom County that tourism is an integral part, but we have other economic drivers as well. So that nice balance that

we have going is what is really important to keeping that sustained for the long term. And like you said, we have a great university that helps drive business and inspires people to be Bellingham residents and we have other economic sectors. So I would say that that nice balance that we have really will be helpful with that.

There has certainly been what is sort of locally named the Zoom Boom, which has occurred in many different communities similar to ours throughout the western U.S. in the last few years. So that has to do with the ability for more remote working. There are more folks that are retiring and moving to places.

And so that has certainly increased the demand, particularly for housing and the cost of housing. And so that is certainly something that is documented that hasn't continues to occur. I think it will be remains to be seen how long that will last and what kind of long term impacts that that has. But that's certainly more on the kind of the relocation end of things.

But that is certainly a trend that we have seen, no doubt. So what kind of ideas are being floated for anything new or different in Bellingham or in Whatcom County? Sure. So from our organization's perspective, we are we are going to be looking at a refresh of our strategic plan as we just look into the new normal, right? Like we're coming out of the pandemic now. Some strategies are our overall strategies might be a little bit different moving forward. What does that look like?

So that is definitely something for us, you know, as we're we're kind of building back, right? Because we certainly took a big hit here in the state of Washington in terms of what happened during the pandemic to our tourism industry. So that's really for us. Our goal is to is to sit down and and and start beginning to kind of work on that and what the future looks like. And how do we continue to really build that great balance? And when you're working with people, do you work with when you say you have a lot of collaboration, are you working as far as Mount Vernon, as far as Vancouver? What what what do you work with in the local area besides us? Sure, yeah, well, quite a few. So obviously, we are a countywide organization. So we work closely

with with the county with our incorporated municipalities as well in the various cities like Clinton and Blaine and Ferndale and their chambers and visitor centers in those areas, as well as help up at visitor center in Maple Falls as well. So we're making sure we're coordinated on those ends of things. We also have various partnerships that we work with with the port, as well as a great example, actually, our recent one is there is a new federal designation that has come to the state and it is called Maritime Washington and is a national historic area that is covering 3000 miles of shoreline. And so we are in an anchor business to help raise awareness of that and talk about the history of our waterfront and the working waterfront coalition is the local group that's working on that. So we're helping to partner on the storytelling aspect of that. We also work closely with sustainable connections

as well, to talk about the great front table food movements that we have and sustainability on that end. Those are just a few examples. So we really do span the spectrum there, countywide and city and also civic groups as well. So Dan, you have any questions there? Following up with what Jane was asking, does the organization cooperate with the tribes? I mean Lummi and Skagit spend an awful lot of money trying to attract people. Presumably those folks don't only go to the casinos and stay at the casinos. In fact, I know they don't. So what's our outreach to the tribes and collaboration to have you with them? Yeah, that's a great point. Since we

are Whatcom County, Skagit isn't something that is specific to our area, but Lummi for sure. And it's something that we continue to work on. We do that a little bit through our team Whatcom group as well. So

collaborating with the tribe that way. But it's something that we will continue to work on, especially from the storytelling, the storytelling and promotion angle, for sure. Yeah, that was a follow up question. If you're telling stories about the waterfront, how do you do it without the tribes? Yeah, well, that's, you know, I encourage you all to check out the Maritime Washington information in the historic area, because obviously that is, as you said, Dan, that is integral to that storytelling, no doubt. I'd like to, well, first of all, I'd like to tell you audience, if you have questions for Dylan, please put them in the Q&A. That's what it's for. But I'd like to drill down a little bit about

economics, if I might. Tourism in general, has a bad reputation for not paying very good wages. Is that something that your group is invested in working with? Or is that really up to the various fractions of businesses to do? Right. So I mean, I do, you know, I think there is a knowledge that that is a sort of a stereotype, right? And I think a lot of times that is misplaced. And there's, I think it is, you know, it is an individual business piece of things. But I do

think that there are certainly so many different ways, as I mentioned, entry level on up to provide that career path, which I think is really important. And I also know that there continues to be that push for those baseline minimum wage, that minimum wage as well, which I know is going to kind of continue to go up and up. So I think there's various ways that are either a stereotype that we are trying to combat, because it really is, but also, you know, that those entry level jobs are being provided with more assets than they, you know, might have been in the past.

Well, what I'm going to be, as I was asking the question, one of our listeners, is that the right word watchers asked directly, how can we as residents here show a welcoming attitude towards tourists, when our restaurants don't have way help and parking is often annoying? And how can your organization sort of resolve that problem and help resolve it? Well, having, you know, as we all know, staffing problems are still persistent across many industries. And I think parking is probably one of the most common things that I think everyone talks about. So I would say the welcoming attitude of this is, you know, treat people how they would like to be treated. I never like to use the word tourist, because none of us like to be called a tourist, right? If you go anywhere, because it has that bit of that connotation. So welcoming, being welcoming to our visitors, to our guests, just provides a certain level of warmth that I think immediately shows that we are a welcoming community to all. And I believe that that sets the tone for our visitors to really enjoy and give back to the place in a positive place, in a positive way. And to have that feeling of being

welcomed, I think creates positive attitude and impact. Good, thank you. Jane, you have a... Well, I was wondering, are there companies that are looking around for investing in communities like ours with some sort of attraction and stuff? And what kind of control does our local government have of what comes in? We're all very protective of our beautiful little town here. And, you know, maybe a strip club would bring in a lot of people, but we really don't want one downtown. So what kind of

government controls are there to keep things out that we don't want and bring things in that we do want? Sure. So I mean, I think overall, you're talking about planning processes for both the city of Allingham and the county. So that certainly sit within the purview of them. And I know that there is lots of conversations around planning and appropriate use that are and continue to go on. I would say that when we're looking currently at what are some of the activities or niches that we think we... That can be built upon here. One of the growth

niches that has been identified for us is sports tourism. And what I mean by that is tournaments. So that could be high school tournaments, college tournaments. Those could be adult leagues, things like that, that travel and provide that benefit. But we need more facilities for that,

which is beneficial to our locals as well as to visitors. I mean, there's a great example is that Western Washington in early March hosted what is called the GMAC, which is a conference, the Men's and Women's Basketball Tournament. And that is huge for us, not only for those room nights, but also just to show off our area. And those are teams that travel for that. And Western was a great host. And our lodging properties were a great host. And we have other things

coming up like we are hosting the state baseball and the state baseball tournaments here locally. And that was a bidding process. And so we helped to incentivize that. And those types of tournaments are great. We just need more

facilities to be able to do that. But we have some good ones, but we need more. So that's one of those that we think we have an ability to really grow. If I might follow up on that, hosting the baseball tournament, does that use Joe Martin Field? Yeah. Any others? That is just that is through the bells and Joe Martin Field. I'm not sure about others. Okay. But that's where that one is hosted. Thank you.

I'll just welcome County stack up compared with other counties in Washington. I noticed that we were fifth. So what do we do to be first? Well, I think we're not long large enough, I see to be King County, obviously. But to me, it's about remaining consistent and continuing to have that nice growth trajectory where we're continuing to build up a bit of those shoulder seasons and having that nice balance. I think that that's how we do it. And I think we have great assets here as well. But there's all those little

elements that we talked about need to kind of be in place. But I think that it's in a good spot to be for us being in that growth trajectory, but the steady growth trajectory, which is really what we're looking for. And again, that balance that I mentioned earlier, economically, I think is important. So what kind of things that we've been talking very Bellingham centric here, what kind of things are we doing out in the county? Yeah, absolutely. So a great example, I'm mentioning kind of back on the sports piece of it, but semi-amma resort up in Blaine recently hosted the Western Athletic Conference Golf Tournament.

I was a collegiate golf tournament that just happened. And that's just another wonderful opportunity. And those were all schools and teams that are not even from this part of the country, this region. So having them come up and be a part and really experience that, it also provides great visitor eyes too for those folks. Hopefully they had

a great experience and we'll come back and with their friends and family and things like that, but also be providing that business outside of Bellingham throughout the county. So that's just a great example. There's some excellent work being done in Linden right now, in at Linden, the work that's been done there and kind of some of the downtown work there is providing just a great visitor experience as well. So those are just two

examples off the top of my head. And when we have these things come to town or when, I mean, where is the tourist bureau involved in working with these different things? Do you bring these? Are you the person who starts this conversation? Are you in the middle of the conversation or what do you guys do? Yeah, it can be both. It really just depends on the situation. We always provide a supporting

role in one way or another and also connecting folks. So connecting to what size venue is needed, connecting to properties, if they're, you know, what type of lodging, what type of experience. So we really do, it just depends, but we always like to help to facilitate and incentivize them in some cases to come to town. Well, I come back to winter because here in Bellingham, we all wait for that. Yeah, we're still waiting for spring and for summer and fall. And then winter comes and besides

skiing, which is wonderful and that Baker, there's kind of a, all of a sudden we're all in our little little rooms. So I'd like to hear more about what you're planning for winter or what your ideas are. Sure. Well, again, I think we have some excellent winter, winter experiences outdoors, whether that be skiing, snowshoeing, cross country skiing. Those are great experiences. I also think that

there are excellent culinary experiences that can be had in the winter that we need to continue to talk about as well as some great arts and cultural events. I mean, those are really some things that I think the story hasn't been fully told about what it has going on here during those times, during that time of year in particular. So I think it's there. I just think it's, you know,

just continuing to raise awareness of it. How do you do that? Through all those channels that I mentioned, but it also helps to get the word out, honestly, you all are ambassadors for our town and for Whatcom County in general. So making sure that everyone is aware of that and also that idea that, oh, there's nothing going on. Well, there is utilize our resource, educate yourself as well on what's going on, because there is a lot, a lot more going on than I think we all think there is. That's good. So you were, got your degrees in Colorado and Montana, and then you worked in the edge of the Rockies at Whitefish. What kind of tourism development

slash attractions, etc. Can we replicate out here? And should we replicate out here? Good question, Dan. I think. That wasn't mine. Let's see. So, so it's, it's a great, it's a great question. And I, you know, I always go back to what is unique and what is about the session place of where you are, because that for areas like Whitefish and like Bellingham and Whatcom County in general, right, we have a lot of great, not only natural, but cultural assets where we don't need to invent an experience. It is here.

And that is what is unique to the place. And so it's really that authentic aspect of it. That is what I've learned in these great places that really is important because we have so much to show. And I think, you know, a great example of that is Seabees, right? Like that is just a wonderful shoulder season event that really showcases authentic local food in a way that that is something that we have that no one else will have.

Like it is very unique. And so to me, it's just, it's making sure that we're really sticking to who we, who we are. Because we have a lot, we have a lot, a lot of great things that, you know, I don't think that, you know, you really need to deviate too much from, from what we have because we have it. We're lucky. Well, and they certainly get enough crowds at Seabees already. There's

probably no food left by the time you get there. So I hate to be negative, but I'm reading that one of the things that they're looking at coming into Bellingham is small cruise ships that go out into the islands, which is a wonderful experience for people having voted for 25 years. I know that. But on the other hand, that is a, a real problem in terms of the ships being in the water and what they're going to dump in it and the regulations, but also the crowding of the islands, because that's one thing that everybody always loves about here. And how, how do you balance, you know, encouraging people to do things and, and, and having it be both good for the environment and good for the experience of the people. I'm not sure that's the best thing to bring in

here. Yeah. I think, I think that we're, you're always looking just from a high level strategy perspective is, is visitor distribution. So that can be across a town that can be across a county that can be across the area to hopefully provide that overall perspective visitor dispersion versus just concentrating it in one area and really having, you know, if there are issues with overcrowding in a certain area of how do you continue to spread that out geographically. And so, so

that's just kind of a visitor flow perspective that I think is always important when, when you're looking at those types of activities potentially. And do you take into account the negative aspects of a cruise ship that they do have problems with their waste and everything that they dump in our beautiful water. Yeah. I mean, you know, from, from, from the management perspective, I would say, you know,

my big hope is that, is that there are, there are solid regulations and that that is taken into account always, you know, when it comes to natural resource protection and, you know, any kind of activity that revolves around those assets. And I think I asked you before about, but I was thinking in terms of companies that are big investors that are looking for places to invest in, in tourism activities. I mean, we had Harcourt come in that hasn't been exactly a stellar experience. And I would just wonder, are there

companies that you talk to that come to you with proposals? I understand Disneylanders is looking for a new home. You know, I have not really had again, still very new, you know, any of like those types of conversations, I mean, other than kind of some of the great, the excellent work that's being done on the waterfront in terms of the redevelopment kind of work there is really what I've been, you know, kind of aware of, at least up to this point, but that's kind of as far as Canada again, still being, being, being pretty being pretty new, but, but that's kind of what I would say. Well, looking at statistics, I guess I have a couple of questions. Initially, your first slide showed the last three years not counting 2022, because we're not the data isn't in yet. But do we have a do you have a good breakdown on how many of those dollars, or how many people were Canadian or came in from Canada? You know, I, I have some metrics for that, but really a lot of that's border crossing numbers, Dan. I mean, obviously, you know, we are still not anywhere

near where we were back in 2019. But we are seeing increases, you know, sporadically in terms of those border numbers, but that's probably the best the best metric that I that I have for that is to understand personal vehicle traffic costs border. But no, but I but I don't have those numbers that I showed broken down by domestic or international, at least Canadian at this point. Okay, well, we know that in terms of development, what come county was in decades past, marketed to lower mainland is a wonderful place to have a second home. That's how Southern Valley got started. It has Sandy Point got started.

That's kind of tourism. But I was curious as to whether you guys are collecting those statistics or someone else might be. It doesn't sound as if you have those numbers. How about do you know what what the average visitor spends? I don't have that in front of me just those aggregate numbers, but I should have I have some there are some metrics like that, but I would say they're more indicators. So I try to look at it. Just sort of overall with these numbers, since I'm still looking at those high level trends. Okay, well, that's

that's fair. You've only been here a couple months. So but follow up question there. There is there is high end tourism, which is to say people can afford to spend a lot and then lower end tourism. Is

the tourism bureau distinguishing between those making efforts one way or the other? Or is that not entering into your discussions? Well, I think inherently with a wide variety of lodging, at various price points, a lot of different activities, our eateries and things like that we we have a wide variety of price points, depending on type of traveler. So I think that's inherently built into our marketing efforts. And what we have to offer is we do span span the gamut there. So which is which is nice to be able to have a variety of those of those options just, you know, again, depending on type of experience. So the answer is yes, and it's pretty built in. And how is the Tourism Bureau funded?

We are funded through hotel, motel tax as well primarily as well as our tourism promotion area, which is a flat fee on room nights as well. So almost all is coming from lodging of some sort. That basically the tourists pay for it. Your overnight visitors. Yes. Thank you. One kind of infrastructure. Do you

think we like here that would help tourism? Is there something that we need to be investing in more? You know, my big thing is, is is helping to get more flights back to where we were at the airport, because we've really had some excellent flights that everybody benefited from. And you know, and so and so that is really kind of one of our focuses, because that really is, I mean, that's helpful for us because we all like to go places, but it also provides more options and more cost effective options as well as we continue to build back some of those flights that perhaps we lost. So that's really a big one, I think. And that's and you know, and one thing that has been great to see is that Amtrak Cascades as of last month is back up to the to the pre pandemic schedule, which so for me, it's about the transfer those those transportation aspects that aren't just personal car. Yes, a lot of this we're complaining about

the old schedule they went to. We were glad to see Amtrak come back somehow landing in the middle of town in the middle of the night was not a good idea. You took Amtrak to Seattle. So so how stable an industry is tourism? I mean, we saw it go down so much during the pandemic, but then everything else did too. So it's hard to to judge by that. Yeah, it is. And I think, you know, obviously, so many industries that had hard during the dirt during the pandemic, the tourism hospitality industry certainly overall did, you know, as well. And also depending on kind of statewide and where you were at. But

the thing that is that is really encouraging to see is that there was such there has been a pretty solid bounce back, which does happen. You know, obviously, there are always going to be economic, environmental and social factors at play when it comes to looking at visitation spending, right? So things like, you know, recessions, pandemic, wildfires, any, you know, any of those types of things are always going to play play a role. But we seem as an industry to be able to bounce back from those, you know, decently quickly. So in that way, I think it's very it's, you know, a solid industry in that way. When we do have those dips, we come back. Is it possible that Bellingham, the greater Bellingham area will outgrow, if you will, the tourism opportunities? Just domestically, I did mention earlier, things like the sea feasts is already too crowded, and it isn't necessarily of visitors. If I know that, at

one point, the farmer's market had the soup festival, which would be wonderful. But it was very much overcrowded as well. The farming market is now, now that it's back is once again, crowded just by locals. So is it possible for us to outgrow the niche attractions that we have? Well, first off, I would say from an, from an event perspective, a good problem to have is that you're busy. And it's a really good problem to have if locals and visitors are both interested in those events, because that means that it's a very good event. So let's keep that in mind, first and foremost. You

know, I think overall, you just, you know, I think, Dan, you're just you're kind of talking just growth in general, right? I call it growth with a big G, which is, you know, as as the population grows, as accounting grows, right? It's like you have, you have population, you have local population, regardless, you have infrastructure, you have visitation, right? So they all they're all intertwined in that sort of mix of, you know, what does what what do things look like, sort of in the future? You know, but I would say just continuing to have those shoulder season events to help kind of spread out some of the visitor flow a little bit is always great. But again, you know, I mean, if it's if locals like it, and visitors like it, I still think it's a good thing. That's, that's a good that's a good recipe for an event. But you know, that might mean more of in those in those different seasons as well. We have, as you pointed out, as well as we know, because we live here, some really wonderful outdoor activities that are attract visitors, some but they don't necessarily by themselves generate revenue.

I'm thinking of the Pacific Crest, the Crest Trail is one of our questions that was asked to the Millennium trails. How do those things figure into your efforts to publicize the Whatcom County? Yeah, so you know, that's the those are kind of like, that's pretty unique, right? Because a lot of that you're talking about, that fact, right, or those kind of long haul trails. So for us, it's it's positioning the county in our area as the base camp for those adventures, right, just making sure that those folks are coming in, staying beginning and end of their trips, and getting what they need. And just in that kind of aspect, is part of it. You know, I also think to it's, it's letting folks know about all the great amenities that we have. Because a lot of times, if you're coming for recreation, you're also going to need those other amenities, right? Like, mountain biking, great one, we're so well known for biking, and letting our bike the, you know, prospective biking folks that are coming, hey, we've got great accommodations, we've got great restaurants, there's other activities to do as well. It's providing that entire experience for those that are coming to that niche experience

that I think provides a great just overall idea that there's just a lot to do, and hopefully, you know, encouraging folks to, to not just do that one activity or to come back. Is there any statistic or idea of how many people come as a tourist and end up staying? Or, yeah, that's so And then decide this is a place you want to kind of retire to. Yeah, so so one of the, one of the best things that I had heard, and actually, you'll have to get it from, from Western Washington, but they do have a rough statistic that said, how many people come to school here? And a lot of that, and end up staying, which is, which is great. So that's, so I don't have that off top my head, I can't really exactly what it is. But that's like a great metric to measure that by, in terms of, you know, coming for coming for a trip, in terms of, you know, coming for coming for one reason, and end up staying and being a part of the community. Let me move back a little bit to use of an advertisement of natural resources.

We have a lot of reasonably good beaches, but the one that stands out as Birch Bay. And there's been some attempts at developing Birch Bay or near Birch Bay that haven't gone very well over the last obtain years. Have you guys turned yourself thoughts to those areas? You know, my, my goal, really, just in general, not just by, but like I said, all the other wonderful areas is really to raise awareness of what we have currently, you know, I mean, that's not like, we're not involved in kind of the development end of those types of things. But I do think that, especially Birch Bay and that state markets is fantastic. And so and also, trying to get some, you know, making sure that that there is awareness that that exists, right, that that exists, that Blaine is there, that there's great food in Blaine, that there's, you know, those types of things is, is just that really raising awareness. Because honestly, again, like, I just think that there are so many potential visitors that just don't even know that, that those areas are really on their radar. And I mean, in general, we're in a hyper competitive

travel environment for visitors. And so we still have a lot of folks that just are not even aware that that those areas exist, really. And, and just making sure that we're putting that on the radar and consistently letting them know, you know, here's some great opportunities. So your metric for success is what? Is it the amount of money that brings in the amount of people it brings in, which is somewhat the same, but Yeah, I mean, we, you know, we, we sort of look at it in a few different ways. And one of ours is certainly, are we providing great messaging? And is it inspiring people to come and spend money at our local businesses, right? So, you know, ultimately, at the end of the day, if we're going to have one baseline, of course, that's going to be that right. But there's other, you know, goals, certainly along the way, but we really also like the idea of being able to inspire, and then directly know that we are handing visitors off to our local businesses for that reason. So that, that would be

sort of baseline. But again, you know, kind of all those other things that we talked about today, collaboration, partnerships, you know, economic and resource sustainability, I mean, all those play into it from, you know, from certain goals as well, depending on project project. So is it a reasonable way to view the tourism boards? Major focus as attracting people to come and stay and explore things and spend money as opposed to sponsoring things, which would be attractions. For example,

one of the one of our questioners asked, what about setting up a bite of Bellingham, which has been tried a couple times in the past, I think. But for obvious reasons, not recently. And I think that's a very good question. Not recently. Are you and I a board that sparks those sparks and sponsors those ideas or a more of a board that would reach outwards to say, hey, here's another great thing you can do here? Well, we do we do a bit of both. I mean, that's sort of our outside marketing versus some of our partnership. I mean, we have we like to help provide, you

know, help with raising awareness of those events. Right. And so that's really kind of a lot of our work is making is trying to get the word out that those events are happening on the ground. And I know, you know, that there are a variety of those types of things happening. So really,

it's a it's a supporting role from our end and providing some assistance in terms of messaging out on our various channels for for those events. But we, you know, operationally, we aren't driving as in the nuts and bolts of those events. We are supporting them in various ways. And what occurred to me, you said you relied a lot on volunteers. Do you have a breakdown of what kind of what and the size of paid staff including part time and volunteers? Yeah, you know, for our volunteers, really, it's it's we try to have some more volunteer hours, obviously, during our peak season in the in the summertime. But we really get a certain number of hours from volunteers, hopefully, you know, on a monthly basis. A lot of it's here at the visitor

2023-05-04 17:56

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