Grays Harbor County, from the eastern border with Thurston County to the Pacific Ocean, saw significant increases during 2016 in tourism dollars. Money spent by visitors engaged in tourism related activities can be connected to increased economic vitality for the entire community.
“The tourism industry is a huge contributor to our economic vitality. We need to all appreciate, understand and cultivate that in our community,” said Mike Bruner, manager of Grays Harbor Tourism.
Not only are tourists spending dollars at local businesses and injecting funds into the economy through purchases, but they also are creating jobs. From gas stations to grocery stores to restaurants and outdoor recreation groups – Grays Harbor residents are often employed by businesses supported by tourism.
Grays Harbor Tourism’s focus is to attract visitors. Their efforts include supporting event venues like the Grays Harbor Fair and Event Center and Grays Harbor ORV Park as well as marketing the wide variety of activities and recreation available throughout the area.
“Through our marketing efforts, potential visitors from southern British Columbia to northern California and as far east as Idaho and Montana are seeing the real Grays Harbor and all it offers,” Bruner said. “Grays Harbor is now a destination for a very diverse tourist demographic.”
Most revenue for tourism is generated directly from tourists themselves.
“A 3 percent motel/hotel tax is assessed for every visitor that stays within the county (excluding Ocean Shores and Westport who collect their own taxes),” Bruner explained. “Everytime someone stays in a lodging option in our area they pay that 3 percent tax which goes through the state coffers and into the county tourism budget.”
The tourism group utilizes that tax income to market the area to more tourists as well as create better facilities for big events, drawing visitors to the area.
“In 2008 the county collected $582,929 in 3 percent hotel/motel tax returns,” Bruner said. “In 2015 the county collected $978,778. That is a massive increase and tells us that more and more people are visiting and staying in our area.”
For 2016, numbers are estimated to top $1 million.
“The increase from 2008 is close to half a million dollars generated from that 3 percent hotel/motel tax,” Bruner said. “Every $30,000 of additional money generated through this tax represents an additional $1 million spent on overnight stays. And, that’s just on accommodations.”
From 2014–2015, the difference in tax collected represented an increase of $1.15 million in overnight stay spent in one year alone.
Grays Harbor County Commissioner Wes Cormier is chair of the county tourism board.
“I give our tourism board an A for the outstanding work it has done working with the private sector, marketing our area and supporting events in Grays Harbor,” Cormier said.
The tourism board contributes money to special events and special marketing campaigns throughout the county and markets those events regionally and out of state.