Tourism Promotion Area gets go-ahead

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The Skagit County Board of Commissioners on Monday approved an ordinance that allows for the formation of the Skagit County Tourism Promotion Area.

Tourism promotion areas allow counties to levy a $2-per-night room fee on large hotels to generate revenue for countywide marketing.

“This is a big deal,” said Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County CEO John Sternlicht. “It authorizes the starting of a destination marketing organization.

“This allows for the marketing of all our attractions, our festivals, sporting events from Anacortes to beyond Concrete. … There has never been anything in Skagit County that is this wide-ranging.”

Public comment on the Zoom meeting Monday morning included a wide range of community members, from mayors to chamber of commerce presidents to business owners to those in the hospitality business. All spoke in favor of the ordinance.

“It’s just a good product for everyone,” Commissioner Lisa Janicki said. “But everyone on the call this morning was in favor of it. It just took some time to percolate. It took every mayor, every chamber to be on board. There was broad-based support.”

The state Department of Commerce has 75 days to review the ordinance, after which time hotels can begin charging the fee.

“There have been a lot of moving parts to this,” said Kristen Keltz, senior director of sales and marketing for Hotel Services Group. “It’s great for the county. Hotels, retailers, private businesses, chambers, they all came together and got behind this. It’s exciting.”

It has taken about 12 years to reach this point.

“I’ve been here for five years, and it was started well before I arrived,” Sternlicht said. “Don Wick was involved in it. Lennart Bensen, a longtime EDASC board member has been working on this for years as well. It has really involved a great amount of effort to get this done.”

The bottom line is that Skagit County can now tout all it has to offer.

“We’ll have professionals whose specialty is promoting tourism,” Janicki said. “We’ll be able to use different mediums — such as cable — to let people know there is a lot to do here in Skagit County every month of the year.”

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