Years ago the city of Walla Walla started promoting tourism in the Valley using funds gathered from a hotel-motel tax fund. At the time, I thought it would be nice to hire a consultant to advocate for our communities and protect us from some of the negative aspects tourism inevitably brings — or at least help us decide what a healthy target level of promotion would be for our small towns.
Since then, the city of Walla Walla has spent millions of dollars to promote tourism, averaging well over $500,000 per year since at least 2007.
I believe the tourism industry has reached an unhealthy size in our area, threatening our identity as a region and our residents’ quality of life.
In that light, I would like to propose putting the tourism industry in the Valley on a maintenance diet (and the film industry on a starvation diet). There are some significant downsides to tourism, and I believe we now have as high a level as we can handle while still preserving the identity and culture of our small communities (not to mention the condition of our local roadways).
With three local colleges/universities, several government offices, a thriving agricultural presence and several manufacturing businesses, our local economy is very diverse. It would be nice if tourism were a leg of our economic “table” and not allowed to grow into that table’s lone pedestal.
Last year the city of Walla Walla dedicated over $600,000 to promoting tourism. With Walla Walla’s municipal budget as tight as it is these days, why not redistribute some of that?
A portion could go to tourism, while the remainder could help fund the Pioneer Park Aviary, patch up potholes and support local industry. It’s a controversial idea, and I’m sure some people would be opposed to the concept, but I think it would mean a lot to many of us who call this place home.