The county is looking for new ways to promote itself

It could be cutting ties with the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau as it goes to competitive bids.

Amy Spain is leaving her post as director of the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau.

Amy Spain is leaving her post as director of the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau.

SNOHOMISH — When the longtime director of the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau resigned this month, it wasn’t clear why.

It still isn’t, but her departure might have something to do with a recent decision by county government to change how it promotes regional tourism in the future.

The tourism bureau has been around for more than two decades. But with its current $861,000 annual county contract set to expire Dec. 31, it might not be the go-to agency much longer. Earlier this month, the Snohomish County Parks, Recreation & Tourism department sent out a request for proposal seeking competitive bids for its next promoter.

What’s driving the change isn’t clear. County parks officials did not respond to requests for a telephone interview. In an emailed statement, county parks director Tom Teigen said the county is following others in “moving toward a destination management model,” but did not elaborate.

Tourism promotion services are funded in part by the county’s hotel and motel tax revenue. By law, the money can only be spent on tourism-related activity.

The parks department has taken a greater role in the county’s tourism effort since tourism came under its umbrella three years ago, Teigen wrote.

Firms selected through the bidding process will provide destination marketing and management services in concert with an in-house team from the county, beginning in 2020, parks department spokeswoman Shannon Hays said.

In years past, the tourism bureau submitted proposals directly to the county’s Lodging Tax Advisory Committee for council and executive approval.

“As the contract has grown over the years and due to the significant scale of the Lodging Tax investment, the county has determined the need to issue a formal competitive Request for Proposal (RFP) for these services,” Hays said.

This month the bureau’s director Amy Spain announced she was leaving her post.

Spain, who’s led the tourism bureau since 2005, has not provided a reason for her decision.

Her last day at work is Aug. 2.

In 2017, the county generated about $2 billion from tourism and outdoor recreation, a record amount, county officials have said.

In 1996 — the year the tourism bureau formed — visitor spending brought in about $4.8 million in local taxes. In 2018, it generated $24 million in local taxes.

The region’s continuing allure as a weekend getaway for Puget Sound residents, new passenger airline service and other attractions have made tourism the county’s third-largest industry — after aerospace and agriculture, according Dean Runyon Associates, a tourism research firm.

Spain said this week that the bureau “is in transition and is evaluating its overall operations.”

Still, the bureau has submitted a bid, she said.

It’s not clear what role the tourism bureau might play should another firm be chosen to provide tourism marketing services.

Early this year, two of the three county’s visitor centers closed in an apparent cost-cutting measure.

One visitor center in Mukilteo remains. It operates at the Boeing Future of Flight Aviation Center, the launch point for the company’s factory tour.

Tourism colleagues around the area have described Spain’s resignation as unexpected.

The board of directors that oversees the tourism bureau did not comment on her departure plans until meeting late last week.

Sara Blayne, the board’s co-chair, said in an email that the board “is reviewing the (executive director) position and will make a decision on a replacement in August.”

“Amy has been a tremendous leader in our county’s tourism industry for the past 20 years,” Blayne said.

Teigen and other county officials, including county executive Dave Somers, thanked Spain for her years of service.

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods.

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