We agree with the In Our Opinion published on Aug. 28 advocating for eliminating public spending on tourism marketing. The tourism marketing professionals will present you with increasingly complicated analytics to justify their funding. The reality is, with Whidbey Island’s popularity and proximity to the population centers of Puget Sound, tourists will visit whether you spend $1 or $1 million on marketing.
The question is: How do you equitably distribute the costs and benefits of these visitors?
In Langley, 2019 lodging tax revenue was about $173,000. Island County Tourism was paid $44,000 for marketing. The Langley Chamber of Commerce (a private nonprofit) was paid $60,000, along with a subsidized lease, to operate a tourist office and provide tourism marketing. With the notoriety of Langley and advances in technology, a taxpayer-funded tourist office is no longer necessary.
Using social media, individual businesses and organizations more effectively market what Whidbey Island has to offer, and on a more personal level. Taxpayer-funded tourism marketing is no longer necessary.
With a limited budget the City of Langley needs to prioritize. Affordable housing and public infrastructure should be two of the highest priorities.
This money can be used for affordable workforce housing. “In addition, 2015 legislation (SB 1223) also allows cities and counties to (optionally) use lodging tax revenues to repay general obligation bonds or revenue bonds for affordable workforce housing,” according to the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington.
This money can be used for public infrastructure projects that benefit all users. Imagine better maintenance and access to parks and beaches, or a real restroom at Seawall Park rather than an unsightly port-a-potty. The possibilities are many.
Contact Mayor Scott Chaplin (email@example.com) and the city council (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let them know it’s time for the tourism fund to give back to the community and be used for affordable housing and public infrastructure.
If Langley continues to be a vibrant small town that is cherished and frequented by locals, tourists will want to visit. If it works only to create a place for tourists, the locals will stop coming. What sort of place do you want to live in?
David and Holly Price