Walla Walla's visitor growth leads state numbers

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Walla Walla is leading the state in visitor growth, according to new numbers posted by Tourism Walla Walla.

For the first six months of the year, the area's increase in hotel revenue has dwarfed the state average, said Andrew Holt, tourism services manager for the local agency. June was a particularly strong month. Officials said it was likely bolstered by a feverish social media campaign, marketing efforts and pursuit of the recent Best of the Road contest resulting in Walla Walla being named Friendliest Small Town in America.

Hotel revenue in the first six months of the year was up 21.2 percent, compared to the same period in 2010. The state average is 7.3 percent, the numbers showed. Next to Walla Walla, Snohomish County posted the highest percentage increase at 13.6 percent.

Hotel revenue for June increased 24.2 percent. Room occupancy jumped 17 percent. Occupancy and daily rate year-to-date are up 12.8 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively. The percentages, according to the announcement, are the highest in the state.

Exposure to new potential visitors has grown in recent months, the announcement said. During the month of May, Tourism Walla Walla's Facebook page drew 3,000 more followers after Tourism Walla Walla launched a Facebook advertising campaign. Ads circulated in the greater Seattle, Portland and San Francisco Bay areas.

The image of the community is also changing, Tourism Walla Walla said. Six years ago, study groups in Seattle and Portland were asked what they thought of when they thought of Walla Walla. Their answers were the Washington State Penitentiary, Walla Walla Sweet Onions and wheat farms. A recent round of focus groups showed things in a slightly different order: a relaxing wine valley, Walla Walla Sweet Onions and the penitentiary.

Coppei Coffee will offer java junkies a jolt starting Thursday.

The new Waitsburg coffee shop, 137 E. Main St., is one of three businesses opening in this weekend during Waitsburg's vintage car show weekend. But guests can get a sneak peek of Coppei Coffee Thursday, according to a post on Facebook and a report in The Times of Waitsburg.

The shop is a venture by business partners Imbert Matthee and Marc Bru. Matthee also owns The Times. The building for Coppei Coffee was part of the package when he purchased the newspaper in 2009.

Coppei Coffee will offer everything from espresso to ice cream, light breakfast and lunch. It will also retail special blends of beans.

Other businesses also opening through the weekend include Betty's Diner at 114 Preston Ave. and Anchor Bar at 128 Main St.

Strictly Business is a local business column. Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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