How to turn our weather into a tourism asset

Cool in the summer? Mild the year around? Folks, we can make this sound pretty good to most of the country. Probably without trying very hard.

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The locals will know you're a tourist.

Cool in the summer? Mild the year around? Folks, we can make this sound pretty good to most of the country. Probably without trying very hard.

While most of the nation is experiencing record temperatures with no end in sight, we are “enjoying” another cool summer. In fact, it’s almost time to dig out those green tomato recipes.

Seattleites are characteristically very apologetic about our summer weather, which typically is cloudy and cool except for those occasional brief periods that trigger a search for the sunglasses and a run to the store for sunscreen.

Although the state’s website for tourism promotion touts Seattle summers as among the best in the country and rain free, its 152-page online Official 2011 State Travel Planner barely mentions weather, except to say that hikers can experience warm fall days in the Pasaytan wilderness and that the Yakima Valley is “blessed” with excellent weather.

That leads to the following thought about turning our exceptional weather into a financial advantage: We should stop being so low-keyed and tout our cool summers and mild year-round weather.

Much handwringing has occurred over the budget balancing cuts the legislature made in tourism promotion and the potential loss of tourist dollars, cuts that also could lead to a loss of government revenue. It’s estimated that the tourism industry annually generates $1 billion in state and local taxes.

However, the demise of the State Tourism Office might just be a blessing in disguise. It might stimulate some fresh thinking about how we can “sell” our state and attract visitors (who will spend a lot of money and then go home).

So here’s the deal: Let’s pitch our year-around weather advantages. We shouldn’t rub salt in the sunburns of others but simply point out the consistency of our comfortable weather patterns.

We should let folks know they can come to Washington at any time for a respite from the heat and weather-related extreme events that never seem to quit. That we have just the ticket for those looking for a break from plus-100 temperatures, humidity, droughts, wild fires, floods, tornadoes, tropical storms, hurricanes, blizzards, and deep freezes.  All of which some experts predict is the new normal. Not exactly Sochi on the Black Sea but close.

The soft sell should be online. The pitch shouldn’t be too serious. A little whimsy is in order so that we stand out from the competition – especially our friends in Portland and San Francisco.

Our tourism website should feature a state weather forecast, and give average temperature,rainfall, and humidity comparisons with other U.S. locations. Appropriate videos and photos are in order — such as the heavy equipment trying to clear the road to Mount Baker in July. These would attract visitors who literally want to chill out.

We should let folks know that our usual top weather story is when a TV reporter actually finds rain and the drops blur the camera lens. And that the August fog usually burns off by noon, but do bring your jacket for morning excursions. And let’s be upfront when the weather gods do screw up and a tourist bus skids on an icy hill and just about goes into the abyss. Appropriately blame the politicians. People do appreciate truth and transparency. And we should explain that we do have therapists and councilors standing by in case tourists choose to make an extended stay.

People, especially boomers, are used to hearing about side effects. They watch the evening TV news and know that the latest drug for COPD can in some cases kill you. So online disclaimers may be in order, such as: “Folks, come to Seattle but beware of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Prolonged light deprivation can cause depression.” And we should let them know that there are numerous tanning salons for treatment of another form of sun deprivation, pale skin. And since the sun usually shines more often east of the Cascades, that a short drive would allow a warm respite from the cooler west side.

And why not use social media to spread the word on the cheap. One can think of great tweets such as: “It’s partly cloudy this July day here in Seattle WA, but should break into the 70s come afternoon. What’s the temp where you are? #nohumidity”

I’m sure the marketers at the new state tourism alliance can come up with other ideas that can be successfully employed to boost tourism using weather as a lure. But this could be a start. So let’s celebrate our weather and reap the benefits.


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About the Authors & Contributors

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Dick Nelson

Dick Nelson is a former Washington State legislator. He currently contributes to the public debate on state and local fiscal issues through research and commentary. As when he was in the legislature, he prefers the Democratic Party.