Tumwater plans beerfest as tourist draw

Staff writerMay 22, 2013 

What better way to celebrate Tumwater’s beer-brewing history than to do it over a couple of beers?

That’s the thinking behind a new event coming to Thurston County, which was announced Wednesday as part of the Olympia Lacey Tumwater Visitor & Convention Bureau’s annual meeting at the Red Lion Hotel Olympia.

The new event is Tumwater Oktoberfest, a joint effort by the Visitor & Convention Bureau and the city of Tumwater, which is set for Sept. 7 at the Tumwater Valley Golf Course driving range, Tumwater city administrator John Doan told about 150 people at the meeting.

Olympia beer and other beers were brewed in Tumwater up until June 2003, when the longtime brewery finally closed.

Doan asked the audience how many people knew someone who worked at the brewery, or had tried the beer at the brewery’s tasting room, and most everyone in the room raised their hands.

“We really have a brand and a story to tell,” Doan said.

But Tumwater Oktoberfest won’t just be about drinking beer, he said.

The Olympia Tumwater Foundation is also involved and will provide information about the city’s brewing history at the event, Doan said.

Doan’s announcement was just one part of a meeting that also included a keynote speaker, an awards presentation and a buffet lunch, served by several local businesses and wineries.

Tourism expert Nan Devlin of Devlin Endean Marketing Group, which has offices in Portland and Seattle, delivered the keynote address in which she emphasized the importance of customer service.

It’s one thing to attract tourists, but engaging them during their stay is also critical because research shows that most tourists remember their trips, good or bad, based on their interactions with other people during their visit, Devlin said.

And word-of-mouth information drives tourism spending, not advertising, she said.

Devlin shared some examples with the audience to drive home her point.

She once asked a hotel clerk in an undisclosed town in Washington state about where she could find local food, and the person behind the counter responded with, “Well, there’s a Wendy’s down the street.”

But Devlin had a better experience at downtown Olympia’s Governor Hotel, where, after she asked the same question, the front-desk person responded by asking more questions, such as, “What would you like to eat?” and “What are you hungry for?” Devlin was then directed to a place she might like.

Devlin encouraged business owners in the audience to educate and empower their employees about area businesses, she said.

Here are the award winners from Wednesday’s meeting:

  • Tourism Attraction of the Year: Hands On Children’s Museum.
  • Tourism Partner of the Year: South Sound Wine Trail.
  • Bring Home the Bacon Award: Washington State Senior Games, which are primarily held in Thurston County.

The VCB also announced that it has a new website, www.visitolympia.com, and also shared some data that tourism spending and tourism-related employment are on the rise again now that the worst of the Great Recession is over.

Tourism employment in the county peaked at 3,080 jobs in 2008, then fell through 2010 before rebounding to 2,650 jobs in 2011, and then it grew again to 2,760 jobs in 2012.

Tourism spending took a similar track.

Spending peaked at $281.3 million in 2008, then fell through 2010 before it grew to $275.6 million in 2011, and then grew again to $291.7 million in 2012.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403

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