There’s some good news on the local tourism funding front.
No, it’s not a restoration of state tourism promotion funding, though proposed state budgets from both the state House and Senate do include tourism dollars.
Yakima Valley Tourism, however, did get a small boost from a $7,100 grant from the Port of Seattle aimed to promote Yakima Valley wine country in several Western U.S. states, including California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah.
The grant will fund a digital marketing campaign promoting the ease of traveling to Yakima Valley’s wine region via the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, hence the interest from the Port of Seattle.
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The promotion is aimed at visitors who aren’t within easy driving distance to the Yakima Valley, said Jared Yoakum, Yakima Valley Tourism’s marketing manager.
Yakima Valley Tourism also hopes the effort will provide brand awareness of the region to older millennials (think late 20s to early 30s), and those in Generation X (those in their late 30s to early 50s) earning $150,000 a year or more. Both groups are potential visitors who have the means and interest to fly to the Yakima Valley and visit its wine region.
“They don’t have (as high of a) disposable income” compared to Baby Boomers, said Yoakum about millennial and Generation X consumers. “But they are drinking much more wine.”
Promotion will revolve around the Taste and Tote Program, which was launched as pilot program in 2012 and retained after there was initial success.
The program’s tagline, “Wine Flies Free From Washington Wine Country,” illustrates the key part of the program: Each passenger flying with Alaska Airlines from Yakima Air Terminal, Tri-Cities Airport and Walla Walla Regional Airport can check a case of wine free of charge (the airline’s baggage fee is typically $25). The program offers other perks, such as free tastings with an in-bound boarding pass.
While visitors have taken advantage of the program’s benefits, there is still room for growth. Yakima Valley Tourism estimates that in 2016, about 20 cases have been checked monthly. That’s about 0.3 percent of the 6,024 passenger average for Alaska Airlines flights out of Yakima for the same period. Yoakum notes, however, that the figure is a low estimate and Yakima Valley Tourism and Alaska Airlines are working on a more accurate and precise tracking method.
The digital campaign, which includes web banner ads and use of Google ad words — where advertisements come up when users search for certain terms — will start this month and go into the fall.
Yoakum said while it would be nice to see an increase in visitors as a result of the campaign, Yakima Valley Tourism is more focused on improving its reach to millennials and other key demographics as potential wine country tourists.
“It will allow us to shape our future marketing campaigns,” Yoakum said.
For Barb Glover, Wine Yakima Valley executive director, any effort or promotion making the Yakima Valley attractive to wine lovers outside the Pacific Northwest is a step in the right direction.
She likes that the campaign is targeting younger wine drinkers. While it’s important to maintain the core Yakima Valley wine consumer, which tends to be older, it’s also important to build loyalty with a new customer base.
Millennials “are the ones that will become the mainstay and the buyers” of Yakima Valley’s wines, she said.