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Visitors Bureau working on Thurston County branding

In this file photo, Zach Senn and Lisa Schoessler, both of Olympia, share a kiss in the sunshine as they grab lunch during the opening day of the Olympia Farmers Market on Thursday, April 2, 2015.
In this file photo, Zach Senn and Lisa Schoessler, both of Olympia, share a kiss in the sunshine as they grab lunch during the opening day of the Olympia Farmers Market on Thursday, April 2, 2015. FILE, 2015

Thurston County outpaced Washington state in boosting tourist spending in 2015, increasing it 6.6 percent to $283 million. The increase in spending by tourists statewide was 5.4 percent.

It’s a great start, but it can be better, said Shauna Stewart, executive director of the Olympia Lacey Tumwater Visitor & Convention Bureau.

The VCB is deep into a tourism campaign in Thurston County that is focused on branding, Stewart told a crowd at the annual state of tourism meeting Thursday at the Red Lion Hotel in Olympia.

“Branding changes the impact of advertising dollars from assets to emotional branding,” she said. “Feelings versus places.”

The event’s keynote speaker was Tammy Blount, president and CEO of Monterey County (California) Convention and Visitors’ Bureau. Previously, Blount was CEO of the Tacoma Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau and also the inaugural chair of the Washington Tourism Alliance.

Blount detailed how Monterey’s research revealed tourists’ emotional connection to the area and how it made them feel. From that, Monterey launched an image campaign to “grab life by the moments,” creating a vision of experiences and emotions, rather than advertising specific events and attractions.

Stewart said the VCB is midway through its branding process, assessing and analyzing the data.

After the speakers, tourism awards were issued.

▪ Charles Clapp, VCB volunteer and tour guide, received the excellence in hospitality award.

▪ Craig Ottavelli, whose company OrgSupport helps nonprofits with leadership and management, received the community unity award.

▪ Charlotte Dickison, director of the Greater Olympia Dixieland Jazz Festival, received the tourism visionary award.

▪ Patrick Knutson was named tourism professional of the year.

The award plaques were made from the historic Legion Way oaks in Olympia that had to be removed.

The event was preceded by a buffet of small plates from Budd Bay Cafe, River’s Edge, Elyse’s Catering and Events, Great Wolf Lodge, Indian Summer Golf & Country Club, Miss Moffet’s Mystical Cupcakes, Nisqually Red Wind Casino, Occasions Catering and Red Lion. Samplings also were available from local breweries and distilleries.

Jerre Redecker: 360-754-5422, @jredecker

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