I grew up in this area in the 1960s and early 70s. To us kids, anything a mile from our street or our neighborhood was exotic and different. But when our mothers told us to “go outside and play,” we got on our bikes and cheerfully ranged far from home — probably farther than our parents would ever permit, had they known!
In our ramblings, my buddies and I experienced different surroundings and met new people. We got the best of both worlds — we enjoyed the freedom and fun of being away from home, yet were also back in time for supper. In this simple way, getting outside and away from home expanded our world just a little bit.
Recently, Valley government and business leaders, residents, festival directors and interested parties gathered for the third annual Snoqualmie Valley Economic Development Conference. The conference focused on a part of the economic engine vital to the future prosperity of East King County and to this Valley: tourism.
In the conference, Prosperity Partnership’s John Chelminiak talked about the region’s business cluster groups and noted that while the tourism segment has suffered temporary challenges due to the economy, awareness of the Puget Sound and the Seattle area as a regional and global tourism destination is growing and will expand in the future. Chelminiak, also a Bellevue City Councilman, noted that one sign of that international draw is the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, B.C., and the U.S. Open, taking place in 2015 at Chambers Bay Golf Course in Pierce County.
Shelly Tomberg, vice president of sales for Salish Lodge and Spa owner Columbia Hospitality, noted that the Salish was ranked seventh of the top 100 hotels in the United States by Conde Nast’s Readers’ Choice Awards. She also advised local tourism districts and retail venues to brand themselves — ‘Sell the destination and tell its story,’ she told listeners.
Tomberg also urged the business audience to develop local partnerships and cooperative synergies with each other. While more people are taking local “stay-cations,’ they are still enjoying cultural, leisure and entertainment activities within a few hours drive from home.
With more than two million people visiting Snoqualmie Falls each year, this well-known destination is a pivotal element of tourism dollars and our Valley culture. The Snoqualmie Falls park makeover is happening now, with plans calling for new picnic and gathering areas, trail improvements, better signage and an interpretive center. Also in the blueprints is a kayak landing at the lower park, adding more draw to this Northwest icon.
At the conference, a new local tourism promotion Web site called Outside Seattle was unveiled with a flourish by executive director Jim Pearman.
The stylish and painterly Outside Seattle Web site graphically informs, lures and makes it easy for both Puget Sound residents and tourists from around the world to do exactly what their mothers told them to do: ‘Go Outside (of Seattle) and play.” The site was designed by the Valley’s own April Kaufmann of AK Branding. Its development and operation is funded by the partnering cities of Issaquah, Fall City, Preston, Snoqualmie, North Bend, Carnation, Duvall, Woodinville, Cle Elum and Roslyn, and also receives funding or taxes from the Summit at Snoqualmie and the Snoqualmie Tribe.
Our local leaders understood the strong need to creatively come together and blend the energies and attractions that each community has to offer into one tourism-oriented web portal. By combining their individual creativity, experience, monies and commitment in marketing and branding this area, this site will attract even more visitors to our Valley and will also greatly benefit our local businesses.
The instinctive maxim our moms went by as they shooed us outside still rings true today. With Snoqualmie Falls, Salish Lodge and Spa, Snoqualmie Casino, the Snoqualmie Railroad Museum, the Factory Stores at North Bend, Mount Si and Rattlesnake Ridge’s great hiking trails, the river’s many fishing and kayaking spots, and now North Bend’s new climbing wall and other tourism-attracting initiatives, the Valley is sure to draw even more visitors, tourists and potential residents from the Emerald City and beyond.
It’s up to us in the Valley business community to work together and to make tourists feel at home, so they will return again and again.
Check out the new Outside Seattle Web site at www.discoveroutsideseattle.com.
• William Shaw is publisher of the Snoqualmie Valley Record. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.