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'It's been a very good year'

“Membership is up,” said Tim Thomson of the Visitor’s Bureau.

“And we’re growing. Our new tourist campaign, ‘Weddings ... Kitsap!’ is a great new attraction,” he said. Thompson is past president (2002) of the Kitsap Peninsula Visitor & Convention Bureau. He spoke at the Bureau’s annual meeting, Wednesday, Jan. 29.

“We’re heavily reliant on the motel and hotel tax,” he continued. “And significant revenues have been coming in. Industrywide (nationally), tourism has not been doing well. Perhaps because of Sept. 11 or fears of terrorism, people don’t want to travel far from home.”

So they’ve been coming from Tacoma and Seattle to Kitsap County, he said.

“It’s been a very good year” for us.

Grant Griffin, executive director of the Bureau, was also optimistic.

“We had 75,000 visitors in 2002,” he said. “Our tourist brochures are now in 178 locations along the I-5 corridor. We have visitor info at Sea-Tac, and in nine places in Oregon. We’re on all the ferries as well. We’ll be doing mail-outs next year.”

The Bureau is also issuing specialty pamphlets about bed-and-breakfasts, gardens, museums and cultural events, and group tours. The Bureau has used virtually all forms of media in the past and is now moving into TV.

“We’ve filmed three 30-second spots,” he said, “which mention of our Web site.”

The commercials will run a total of 900 times over the coming year on local access TV.

“We’ve also gotten Kitsap mentioned in 500,000 other tourist publications,” he said, adding that all this wouldn’t have been possible without the Bureau’s volunteers, who donated 3,700 hours last year.

“If we’d paid them — minimum wage — it would have worked out to $26,000,” he said.

“The only bad news is that we’re not growing fast enough,” he said, adding that the Bureau has hired a consultant to help.

Tourism spending in 1995 was $136 million in Kitsap County. In 2001 it was $178 million, he said.

“And 2002 is going to be better yet,” once the figures are in, he said. He also said the Bureau created 3,420 jobs.

“They’re not all at a living wage,” he admitted, “but we’re certainly contributing.”

Most jobs in the tourist sector are service jobs, which are often part-time and generally pay minimum wage.

New Bureau President Fred Howard added to Thompson’s comments:

“We are going to take a more aggressive approach; continue our programs and make them better; And we’re going on the road.”

Howard explained that the next big push will be to travel around Washington — and possibly the nation — personally touting the benefits of the Great Northwest.

“Our No. 1 priority for the area will be economic development,” he said. “Our No. 2 priority will be economic development... our No. 3 priority will be economic development.”

By the time he was finished, Howard had generated quite a bit of laughter and applause.

He said that lately, Seattle has been experiencing 25 percent occupancy rates in hotels and motels, while Kitsap has climbed to 80 percent. “51 percent of our revenue goes to marketing.

“We want day-trippers as well as those who use hotels and motels,” he added. “We want people to think of the Kitsap Peninsula as their first option for a day out.”

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