Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tourism Matters Symposium

I was invited by the Tacoma Regional Convention + Visitor Bureau to attend the Tourism Matters Symposium today at the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Tacoma. The symposium included breakfast and lunch catered by the wonderful Pacific Grill. I had no idea what to expect, but it ended up being very fun and informative. This is going to be a fairly link-heavy post, but that's only because I met so many great folks there who deserve your patronage. I'll put all the links at the bottom.

For starters, I met a fellow attendee in the parking lot. We just started randomly talking, and she asked me if I was going to the symposium. So we walked there together. She told me she worked for the Hampton Inn & Suites Tacoma. Once we got inside and checked in (my name tag even said "Itinerant Writer" on it), she got together with the other Hampton Inn folks to set up their vendor booth. They were giving away a Nintendo Wii, so I was invited to play a few rounds of Super Mario Kart with them. It was fun, but I was soundly defeated. Turns out, I'm a reckless driver when it comes to the Wii. Who knew?

While we waited for the ballroom to open up, we stood around and mingled a bit. I looked over the Tacoma & Pierce County tourism booklets. Spoke with the representative from Fife Flowers, who did the lovely centerpieces for the tables. Drank some coffee. Took a look at other vendor booths, including Stina's Cellars.

The ballroom finally opened, and there was open seating for breakfast. I found myself sitting next to two nice women from Seattle Southside Visitor Services. To be honest, I had no idea such an organization existed. They cover tourism in Tukwila, Sea Tac, Kent, and Des Moines. I also sat with a couple of women who worked for the Pierce County government. The breakfast (which was great: croissant, fruit and mini broccoli and egg casseroles) took place during the annual meeting and business plan.

I want to make a few important points that I took away from this meeting.

Why does tourism matter?
- Pierce County gets 4.735 million visitors.
- These visitors have generated 11,360 jobs.
- These visitors spend $968 million, which generates $71.6 million in tax receipts.

After the breakfast meeting, we had a 20 minute break before the expert panels. There were three: Tour + Travel, Meetings + Events, and Marketing + Public Relations. I attended the Tour + Travel panel. The two experts on that panel were Jake Haupert from EverGreen Escapes and Michael Rogers from Beeline Tours and Seattle Food Tours.

It was an insightful panel. They talked a lot about how they got started in the industry, how they started their businesses, how they run their businesses, do their marketing, etc. It was very inspiring to hear the passion in their voices that they have for their work. These are guys who clearly love what they do and bend over backwards to accommodate their clients.

The panel lasted about an hour and then it was almost time for the awards luncheon. We had assigned tables for that, so I ended up sitting with 2 folks from Hampton Inn & Suites, 2 guys from Hotel Murano, C.R. Roberts from The News Tribune, and 2 people from the Tacoma Regional Convention + Visitor Bureau (including Zak, who invited me). Lunch was salmon with pesto, grilled chicken with beurre blanc, mashed potatoes, asparagus and individual apple tarts. Delicious.

On to the awards!
If you're interested, a quick summary by C.R. Roberts here.

After the presentation of the awards, that was pretty much it! It seems some people stayed and mingled, but I actually had to head home. I had quite a few projects I needed to get done.

Thanks to Zak from the Tacoma Regional Convention + Visitor Bureau for the invitation. It was interesting and really motivated me to get out there and explore more of Tacoma and Pierce County! It was also really nice to meet people in the industry.

- Tacoma Regional Convention + Visitor Bureau
- Pacific Grill
- Fife Flowers
- Stina's Cellars
- Seattle Southside Office of Tourism
- EverGreen Escapes
- Seattle Food Tours
- Beeline Tours
- Hotel Murano (named one of the top 100 hotels in the U.S. in Conde Nast Traveler's Reader's Choice Awards.
- Hampton Inn & Suites Tacoma
- Marriott Courtyard Downtown Tacoma

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Today, as you know, is Veterans' Day, and with my husband being in the military, we can sometimes get some nice perks.

One of those perks today was free admission to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. We have never been there, and I've been wanting to go. Luckily for us, the weather is also fantastic today. Beautiful blue skies, lots of sun, and a chill in the air which was not at all uncomfortable.

I'm not going to say much about the zoo. It's not the best zoo I've ever been to. It's actually pretty small. But it's in a gorgeous setting. I've never seen a zoo in a prettier area, actually. And it has a couple of fantastic things going for it: the polar bear exhibit and the walruses.

The polar bear exhibit BLEW MY MIND. We got there when the feeding was taking place. You can see the bears both above and below water. One of the bears came up to the glass right next to us, and stuck its paw on the glass. Only a couple panes of thick glass separated us. It was amazing.

The walruses were like that too. We didn't really see them well from above the water, so we went to where we could watch them underwater. And they kept swimming up to the glass on their backs, and then flipping over against the glass and swimming up to the top of the water. It was really cool.

I also liked the aquarium quite a bit - particularly the seahorse exhibit.

Lance and I both enjoyed our trip to the zoo today. It only took a couple hours to get through everything, so we were done by noon. We stopped at a few other places in the vicinity: Owen Beach and Fort Nisqually (which is a museum, so we didn't go in, but you can see parts of the fort from outside). And then we headed back toward home, stopping at Applebee's (free entrees for active duty and veterans!) for lunch on the way.

Without further ado...
Click here for pictures!