In what I'd consider a boneheaded budget cutting move, the state eliminated its tourism office, saving $2 million a year to support an industry which generated $15.2 billion statewide in 2010 revenues. That looks like a pretty good ROI to me. But hey, I’m just a business guy with 32 years of experience, so what do I know?
In response, the state’s tourism industry stepped up to try and keep those tourism dollars flowing, and formed a new association called the Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA). And what was one of the very first things it did? It announced, “a strategic partnership with the Washington Lodging Association (WLA) and Saga City Media Inc. to publish the official Washington State Visitors’ Guide beginning in 2012.”
What's wrong with this picture, it that Saga City Media is an Oregon company. No Washington publishing company was even alerted to the possibility of competing for this contract, much less given the opportunity.
In an email when I questioned why not, David Blandford, who is with the Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau, responded, “Out-of-state companies were not given an opportunity to bid either. WTA is partnering with the Washington Lodging Association which had an existing publishing partnership with Saga City Media Inc. Saga City is based in Portland but is very active in support of the tourism industry in Washington and the Pacific Northwest.”
I’ve seen a lot of Saga City’s work, and they're a quality company that puts out good work. However, the quality of their work is not the issue. Washington jobs is. Besides our own company, I personally know of at least five other in-state publishers who could do this job just as well. And the fact that an association that supposedly is in the business of promoting in-state jobs is intentionally funding Oregon jobs, without giving in-state companies the opportunity to even compete for the work, is in my view, beyond hypocritical.
In a WTA press release, Todd Thoreson, WLA Chairman of the Board and Regional Vice President of Hotel Operations for Red Lion Hotels Corporation, stated, “With the recent loss of state government funding for tourism marketing within the State of Washington, we are at a critical juncture that requires all hospitality industry stakeholders to work together and pursue solutions that can ensure our success in the future. We believe this partnership is a step in the right direction that helps us achieve this goal.”
You know what Todd, I’ve been a Red Lion customer, stockholder, and have belonged to your R and R Club for many years. But I will personally boycott Red Lion Hotels until this situation changes. I strongly believe that dollars generated in Washington State should stay here to create Washington jobs, and the WTA has a moral obligation to put this contract out to bid to Washington State publishers only — as it should have to begin with.