Tourism, Saint Martin’s highlight Lacey council work session

The Lacey City Council on Thursday night received an update on the Tourism Promotion Area, a recently created tool to help fund and promote Thurston County as a tourism destination.

Lacey is a partner to the TPA, as is Thurston County and its three other largest jurisdictions. The other partners are the Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater Visitor and Convention Bureau, the Thurston County Lodging Association and its hotel partners, and a seven-member TPA commission.

The TPA was 10 years in the making and then a contract with the county was finalized July 1, although a $2 per-night, per-occupied room assessment charged to guests who stay at hotels began in April.

The money raised from the assessment will be used by the VCB for marketing. It raised about $43,000 in April and about $51,000 in May as hotels started to get busier. The budget for the year is about $435,000, although in future years it is expected to grow north of $700,000, VCB Executive Director George Sharp explained to the council.

Thurston County hotel occupancy levels rise during summer and the legislative session, but the lodging association wants more help in promoting the off-season months of October, November, December and April, Sharp said.

Part of that effort will include distributing maps, which highlight Thurston County destinations, to some 400 racks throughout the region. The VCB also will implement a fall marketing campaign that will include radio, TV, print and the Internet.

Sharp told the council that the VCB views its target market as within 3.5 hours of the county, followed by a secondary market that targets Eastern Washington, British Columbia and 12 western states.

Also Thursday night:

Saint Martin’s University President Roy Heynderickx provided an overview of the university to the council, including the following statistics: 25 percent of first-year students are from out of state; nearly 500 students live on campus; the freshman retention rate is 84 percent; and the university, which is based in Lacey, has experienced an increase in students from Brazil, Cyprus, India and Sweden.

Prior to the council work session, the Lacey Fire District 3 commission publicly recognized six sailors from Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor who helped rescue Walter Edwards, 48, of Tacoma from the Nisqually River on July 4. They performed CPR on him until Lacey Fire District paramedics arrived, Lacey Fire Chief Steve Brooks said in an email Thursday.

Those recognized were Petty Officers Daniel Harrison, Bobby Garneau, Cody Machajewski, Justin Benoit, Mathew Milby and Seaman Casey Clark.

“The Fire District Commissioners thanked the sailors and their commanding officers for their selfless efforts to provide life-saving intervention to a citizen in need,” Brooks said in his email.