Pushing for Change in Washington State

Sunset from Marina Park.

While everyone laments the loss of The Washington State Tourism Office and its annual $1.8 million budget, I consider this recent turn of events as an opportunity for big change in how visitors exchange information and talk about travel.

I want to seize this opportunity to create a brand new website and modern media platform to connect the best of WA State with its travelers.  GoWAState.com will be a highly interactive travel guide, much different than its informational only state-run predecessor. It will be a comprehensive resource for travelers, created and curated by experts and travelers – independent of bureaucratic organizations, member-run chambers and paid content.

I’ve worked as a travel journalist for the past 13 years and have written for more than 100 publications, including TravelChannel.com, National Geographic Traveler, Condé Nast Digital Media, Islands, Sunset, DailyCandy.com, Fodors.com and Destination Weddings and Honeymoons.

I understand the informational and digital resources people need to travel and have the professional credibility and connections to make GoWAState.com happen.

From the best hotels, hiking trails and most innovative restaurants, to cool events, must-have services and places to shop, my editorial (and ethical) rule of thumb is this: If I wouldn’t recommend something to my friends, I won’t put it on the site.

Credibility will always be a conflict of interest for DMOs, who cater to meeting planners and travel operators and cow tow to industry stakeholders.

Due to economic politics, it’s inevitable – I get it.

But, I don’t like it and I’m sick and tired of travel experiences being spoon fed to tourists based on paid memberships instead of unbiased merit.

The amount of pay-for-play bullshit I’ve seen over the years would make any unsuspecting traveler’s head spin, and as a result, there are a handful of destinations on my editorial blacklist.  Sure, this paradigm may generate dollars, but it lacks integrity and is ultimately, not in the best interest of the traveler.

In addition to increasing transparency, DMOs need to step it up when it comes to understanding the social media landscape. Tourism is no longer a one-sided informational resource. DMOs need to embrace and engage new digital tools and create an interactive conversation and community or they will quickly become irrelevant.

Just last week, the “marketing” voice from a local Chamber of Commerce tried to school me on social media. I did some quick R&D on this guy only to find he has minimal online presence, exactly four followers on Twitter and an egg as his avatar. I have four times the amount of followers on my personal Twitter account than his entire chamber. Can you say “irrelevant?”

Since I’ve launched fundraising for GoWAState.com, I receive nasty emails and DMs from DMOs on a daily basis, which leads me to believe I’ve struck a nerve.

Good. I’m going to keep calling bullshit on the pay-for-play model and keep pushing for change.

I love travel, I love Washington State and it’s about time the traveler is given the resources they need and put first.

Editor’s Note

I asked Charyn to pen this guest post after a few exchanges via Twitter in reference to GoWaState.com.  I like the passion she brings to this conversation.  While I both agree and disagree with some of her points and approach, I feel that it is an important perspective for our DMO peers to recognize and understand.

– Troy

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.