Thurston County Tourism Is On The Rise

The secret is out about Thurston County. In 2015, visitor spending increased as more than a million people visited the county. Spending is on the rise, too. In 2015, visitors spent $282.8 million in Thurston County, that’s a 6.6 percent increase from 2014, when visitors spent $265.2 million.
In 2015, 1,187,000 people visited Thurston County which is made up of Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, Yelm, Bucoda, Grand Mound, Littlerock, Rochester, Rainier, and Tenino.
Other facts and figures, courtesy of the Olympia Lacey Tumwater Visitor and Convention Bureau, include:
    • 2,900 jobs were created by the tourism industry.
    • The average visitor party was 2.4 people, staying a length of two and a half days.
    • The largest share of tourism dollars went to food service – $83.6 million – with retail sales a distant second at $48 million.

The bureau attributes the bump in spending partially to the U.S. Open, hosted in nearby University Place. In the wake of the tournament, the bureau will market the area to golfers.

Now that the tournament is over, the bureau hopes visitors per year will continue to increase even without the bump of a major sports competition.

“We can’t take our foot off the pedal,” said Patrick Knutson, outgoing president of the bureau.

At the bureau’s annual meeting, leadership stressed the importance of “destination marketing.” The Olympia area has a lot going for it, with downtown small businesses, the seat of government, and easy access to outdoor adventures.

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is a staff writer at South Sound magazine. Email her.
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