This month, Washington Hospitality Association President & CEO Anthony Anton welcomed David Blandford, the executive director of State of Washington Tourism, to the CEO Podcast.
The two discussed the new State of Washington Tourism branding that rolled out about a year ago.
“It was exactly right on the mark,” Blandford said. “We took our time. We fully engaged the statewide industry.”
Blandford said that along with the industry, his organization took the time to reach out to the public sector to meld the two sides, gaining support. It was a perfect melding of both sides to get unanimous approval from the state Legislature for the branding.
The main themes of the new branding are that Washington is a unique destination that is a value-based brand and is the “confluence of local Washingtonian values with visitor values,” Blandford said.
He said we invite responsible travelers to immerse themselves in our state but to be good stewards of Washington and care about it as much as we do.
The brand wants to support what is local and authentic, hyper-focused on what he calls the “pathfinder,” the persona of the ultimate tourist to our state.
“(That person) has lots of disposable income, loves to travel, wants a fresh destination, wants to come to be a part of what exists here naturally and help preserve it,” he said.
Anthony mentioned that one of the taglines for the brand is “True to Nature,” which can mean the nature of who you are, whether you are a person who enjoys an urban vibe. It can also mean that Washington is true to its natural environments, such as the state’s green, the water’s blue, or our beautiful vistas.
“There’s a double entendre there for sure,” Blandford said. We’re displaying to visitors, ‘Come as you are.’ We want you, and we also want you to understand who we are.”
He said the past imagery for Washington travel was always the postcard picture of a mountain in the background and a hiker in the foreground. The images they use are more personal, such as a person shucking an oyster with the juices dripping out or seeing a picture of green moss so vibrant you can feel the moss under your feet.
“Immersion is so much a part of this brand,” he said. “That is what we hope really lures.”
Blandford also discusses what the state can do if the Washington Legislature approves a new $13 million per year budget for tourism.
“Marketing the heck out of something is expensive,” Blandford said.
“I think we’ve rebuilt in a smart way,” he said.
He mentioned that a state like Montana has a $20 million budget to market travel to folks outside of that state.
“We may not have the funds to blanket the way that Montana does, but we begin with an ask of $13 million per fiscal year, which helps us sustain operational funding statewide year-round.”
He said promoting tourism is like importing taxpayers. They come in, spend money, and leave, producing tax revenue and economic impact.
“I hope that hoteliers and restaurateurs and attractions and cultural institutions and outdoor tour leaders and every segment of the industry is excited at what we’ve built together,” Blandford said. “The industry has mobilized as we’ve never seen it before. I think we’re fired up in spite of the pandemic and economic concerns. I hope they feel excited about the future.”