By Zachariah Bryan
Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority has a simple goal: Make the region encompassing SeaTac, Tukwila and Des Moines more attractive to tourists.
Getting the tourists isn’t the hard part. The region is home to about 8,000 hotel rooms, and eight more hotels are in the process of going up this year. And they get used, too — about 80 percent of all visitor nights in Seattle Southside are attributable to hotel/motel stays, much greater than the percentage in King County and Washington State overall, according to a report.
Moreover, travel spending in Seattle Southside has jumped up to $665 million, an increase of 6.8 percent from 2014 to 2015; lodging sales increased up to $237 million last year; and domestic visitor air arrivals increased at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for the sixth year in a row. Right now, there are 4,950 people employed by the tourism industry.
“We have a strong track record of demonstrating positive economic impact in Seattle Southside through a strategic investment in tourism,” said Katherine Kertzman, president and CEO of Seattle Southside. “The increased funding that is now delivered through our Regional Tourism Authority (RTA) will allow us to significantly increase our investments in marketing the destination, and Seattle Southside will continue to thrive by every economic measure.”
The hard part will be in keeping tourists here, at least for part of their stay, instead of letting them wander off to Seattle or Tacoma or Mt. Rainier.
As of Jan. 2016, thanks to funding from the Regional Tourism Authority, Seattle Southside finished its transition from a small, four-person department with the City of Tukwila to an 11-person operation with a wider regional impact.
Vice President of Marketing and Communications Ashley Comar said the ultimate goal will be to put “heads in beds,” but there will be a renewed focus on highlighting the tourism potential of the area. That includes Southcenter, indoor skydiving, the Des Moines marina and easy access to Seattle via light rail.
Particularly, Comar said, Des Moines could be a big player in tourism with its easy waterfront access and small town feel, as well as a new Four Points by Sheraton Hotel.
“We can really work with them to grow that downtown corridor and make it a quaint little beach town — people can shop and visit the farmers market, rent paddleboards and kayaks. Theres a lot of opportunity there,” she said.
On Tuesday, May 17, from 3:45 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. a the Four Points by Sheraton in Des Moines, Seattle Southside will be releasing a strategic plan called Destination 2020, which will detail the organizations plan to “raise awareness and increase economic impact through tourism.” For more info, click here.