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Regional tourism marketing plan presented to city council

Visit Kitsap Peninsula Executive Director Patty Graf-Hoke and board member Diane Robinson presented a regional marketing plan to the Port Orchard city council during the June 17 work study session.

“The paradigm that we have been using for funding regional tourism marketing really hasn’t been working,” said Graf-Hoke. “It hasn’t been working for a long time.”

She said the VKP wants to shift the paradigm.

Graf-Hoke said VKP proposes partnering with and helping rather than applying for lodging tax funding as a separate entity and competing with other groups.

“We believe its time that tourism regional and tourism marketing were treated as other economic development entities and funded accordingly,” she said.

Graf-Hoke noted to the council that tourism-related industries in Kitsap County have grown $100 million in the last 10 years.

“It is now worth $352 million and generates more than $25 million a year just in lodging,” she said. “And $258 million in food services and beverages.”

Graf-Hoke said among 39 counties in the state, Kitsap County is ranked fifth in increased lodging.

“We really believe it’s time to recognize that regional tourism marketing is part of economic development,” she said. “It’s time that we start engaging with the city councils.”

Graf-Hoke said each year, VKP has to apply for lodging tax money for each municipality and the county.

“I’m having to make a strategic presentation to people and that’s not where their expertise is,” she noted. “I do it once a year and I only get 10 minutes, opposed to setting down with an executive committee or economic development committee of the city and ask, ‘How can we partner with you, how can we interface and compliment what you are doing?’ ”

Graf-Hoke said there are a lot of exciting things happening in the Kitsap Peninsula and that a more interactive partnership is needed with the leadership of the cities.

She said VKP is in the process of getting a destination status for the county from the National Parks Service.

“Last year, with Port Orchard and mainly Bremerton, we were de-funded at the 11th hour and that caught the attention of the National Park Service,” said Graf-Hoke. “We almost lost our grant application for our water trails destination management and potentially our destination for the water trails.”

She said VKP had to meet with county commissioners and assure the National Park Service that VKP was on board as a water trails destination.

Graf-Hoke was recently appointed to Gov. Jay Inslee’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on parks and outdoor recreation.

“We are the only Visitor and Convention Bureau in the state on the task force and working with finding funding for the parks,” she said. “It’s critical to us to maintain our reputation within outside people we are working with on a larger regional partnership.”

Graf-Hoke said there are two options. One is a professional services contract similar to the one VKP has with the City of Gig Harbor.

“We didn’t apply with lodging tax, they just hired us,” she said.

The second option is a combination of the lodging tax and general fund money.

“We would leave that to the discretion of each city to determine that,” Graf-Hoke said. “It’s time  to shift this paradigm a little bit and look at a new way of funding for regional tourism marketing for Kitsap County.”

Councilman Jerry Childs said he feels tourism is important to the county.

“I think the council will have to decide about funding and amounts,” Childs said.

“What we’re doing is much, much bigger,” said Graf-Hoke. “We don’t want to compete against Fathoms, other businesses and non-profits that we are supposed to be serving.”

She said VKP provides an “extraordinary service.”

Robinson, who is CEO of Elandan Gardens in Gorst, said her business spends about $10,000 each year on independent marketing.

“A garden is a pretty good attraction to a community,” she said. “But people are not going to come an hour out of Seattle unless there is more to do and more to see.”

Robinson said when sits in committee meeting, she is not looking at individuals, she is looking at the region.

“They’re all about them,” she said. “When I come to the table it’s not about me. I come to the table about the region. I want people to come to Kitsap County. I don’t want them to come to just one thing.”

She said it’s important that all the cities and counties work together.

“Regional marketing is important to me,” Robinson added.

Graf-Hoke said Port Orchard has plenty to offer tourists with Chimes and Lights, Fathoms, concerts, the farmers’ market and other events.

“They’re all important to us because they bring visitors here and they need to have things to do,” she said.

Graf-Hoke asked the council to recognize that the tourism efforts by the VKP and the city would be contributing to the efforts.

Childs said the council still would have on how to fund certain things, such as VKP.

“The issue would be is it coming from the lodging tax or general fund,” he said.

Graf-Hoke said the city would decide how much money to fund the regional tourism marketing effort by VKP.

 

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