By Emily Hamann
The Bellingham Business Journal
A Bellingham company is bringing more dollars to Washington, one tourist at a time.
For six years, Scenic Washington State has printed travel guides and maps to help tourists site see in Washington.
“Historically, it’s been a print-focused, advertising-supported product,” Tim Fry of Scenic Washington said. Now, it’s upgrading its digital content.
“Scenic Washington State is completely retooling its offering,” Fry said.
Now those advertisers will have more options.
“It’s clear that people’s media consumption habits are shifting,” Fry said.
Scenic Washington will now offer a completely redone website and, starting this spring, a mobile application.
It’s also expanding its tourism guides to include stops in the major metropolitan areas, including Bellingham.
The new platforms will also serve as a one-stop shop for advertisers, who will be able to easily get their content in all of Scenic Washington’s platforms.
“One of the things we hear from advertisers is that they’re not entirely sure how to spend their advertising dollars,” Fry said. “I feel like one of the problems we’re helping solve is taking the guesswork out of advertisers’ marketing decisions.”
The app offers a whole new avenue for businesses to attract visitors.
In the app, certain attractions and businesses are marked on a map.
When users visit those locations, they earn points.
When they get enough points, they can redeem them for discounts or merchandise at participating businesses.
The website, scenicwa.com, offers a guide for things to do, places to stay and where to eat in Washington, as well as a custom road trip planner.
“It will feel like an online magazine,” Fry said. “We’re going to do a lot more editorial.”
Scenic Washington is also opening up room for advertisers on its wildly popular 365 Things to Do In Washington State Facebook page.
Every day, the page posts a new picture of a destination to visit in Washington.
The page has more than 110,000 likes, and now advertisers can get integrated into those Facebook posts.
“What people like about [the page] is that it feels very authentic and we’re going to maintain that,” Fry said.
“The focus of it will still be those great road trips to take; now we’re going to start referencing those things that people can do that are more of a commercial nature.”
Running a tourism company in Washington is different than almost anywhere else in the country.
Washington is one of the only states that doesn’t put any money toward a tourism budget.
In the beginning of the recession, Washington stopped sending dollars toward promoting tourism to the state.
Since then, private companies have been picking up the slack. Companies like Scenic Washington.
Local tourism boards have also been pitching in.
Many counties and cities in Washington, including Whatcom County, have tourism boards funded by tax dollars levied locally. In fact, Fry said of their biggest clients are local visitor’s bureaus.
“I think Washington has had to be a little bit more creative than others, given that there’s no state funding,” Fry said. “They say scarcity is the mother of invention.”
There’s some momentum to change that. There two bills, one in the State House of Representatives and one in the State Senate, which would reinstate funding for tourism marketing on a state level.
Fry said those bills would be good for tourism, and good for companies like Scenic Washington.
“If these bills are funded, it’s only going to be good for everybody involved in tourism,” he said.