OLYMPIA — The state of Washington has all but privatized tourism and visitor promotion.
A bill passed last session, House Bill 2229, creates a mechanism to collect money from hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions and retailers to pay for a promotion effort. The Washington Tourism Alliance must decide before the end of the year how to apportion the payments to raise $7.5 million.
That isn’t how the tourism industry wanted it. Taxpayers used to pay for tourism promotion, but that funding was one of many victims of Great Recession budget cuts.
Hotel and restaurant association lobbyists never tire of telling lawmakers how tourism is a $16 billion business and how other states figured out a way to keep the money flowing.
But there is certainly a benefit, besides financial, from the state turning over tourism promotion to the private sector. We will not likely see another $440,000 slogan development effort that ended up with the infamous “Say WA?”
Hard to fathom but easy to make fun of, the 2006 slogan rose and fell faster than Mariners pennant hopes. In less than a year the state canceled the campaign, returning to a more-generic “Endless discoveries for the independent spirit.” (Kind of makes you miss, “Say WA,” doesn’t it?)
In the state-branding game, there are mottos and then there are slogans. Washington’s territorial motto was “Alki,” Chinook jargon that means something like “by and by” or “in a little while.”
One theory about the origin of the term is that a ship captain asked an early Seattle settler what to call the land we now know as Alki Point. The story goes that the captain was told the name of the community was “New York.” The captain replied, a bit sarcastically, “New York … Alki,” like, “in your dreams.” Early Seattle settlers adopted it in the same vein that some current Tacomans embrace “Grit City.”
Washington doesn’t have an official motto anymore. We have an official state endemic mammal but no official motto. Go figure. (Maybe “Go Figure” could be our motto?)
Slogans are something else — less inspirational and more promotional. The state’s unofficial slogan is “The Evergreen State” but an effort in 2009 to make it official didn’t even get a vote in the Senate.
Maybe we can, once again, engage in some shameless sloganeering once the tourism money is collected. As a public service to this private, nonprofit group, here are some suggestions:
We Got Pot
Our Secret Sauce? Hash Oil.
The Ever GREEN State. Get it? GREEN!
The Funyuns State
We Don’t Understand Aplets & Cotlets Either
It Really Doesn’t Rain That Much Here … Oh Crap, Yes It Does.
Need Vacation Tips? Our Drones Know What You Did Last Summer … And Last Night.
No Serial Killers … Lately
The Low-Tax State (if you’re Boeing)
We Have a Burning Desire To Build Your Jets
Mountains and Mountain Bars
Come See Your Team Beat The Mariners
The Washington State Fair State
We Had $4 Coffee Before Anyone
Come See The Original Starbucks (that isn’t really the original Starbucks)
The Evergreen State (until Ellensburg)
The Nevergreen State (after Ellensburg)
Our Bertha’s Stuck in the Eartha
The Maximum Wage State (if you coach the Huskies or Cougars)
Ten Years Without A Governor Recount
Come See The Seahawks Beat Your Team (If They’ll Sell You A Ticket).
I’ve taken a run at this concept over the years. Some suggestions don’t stand up to the test of time (like this from the time of tests: “We Waffle on WASL” or the Grunge-inspired: “We’re Flannelistic!”)
Some have a much longer shelf life.
Birthplace of Bing; Deathplace of Cobain
Divided By A Common Mountain Range
We’re Left of Idaho (Like Who Isn’t?)
One Exit Past Portland
Gotta Lotta Lotto
Land Of A Million Computer Nerds
Free-Enterprise Booze At Monopoly Prices
Near Nature, Near Perfect, But Still Pretty Far From Oklahoma
Gateway to Coquitlam
I hope this helps.
Peter Callaghan can be reached at peter.callaghan@ thenewstribune.com